And three storylines to come out of this Christmas night game:
Ben is Digest Player of the Week
From Bob Labriola at Steelers.com:
This is what franchise quarterbacks do. This is why Ben Roethlisberger deserves to be recognized as a franchise quarterback.
Trailing 17-10 when the fourth quarter began and then by 20-10 shortly thereafter, Roethlisberger directed the Steelers on three touchdown drives – of 75 yards, then 90 yards, then 75 yards again – and he capped two of those with touchdown passes to lead the Steelers to a 31-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens that clinched the AFC North Division championship and guaranteed a playoff game at Heinz Field on the weekend of Jan. 7-8.
For the game, Roethlisberger completed 24-of-33 for 279 yards, with three touchdowns, two interceptions, and a rating of 103.0, but more important than the statistics were the situations in which Roethlisberger delivered for his team. Roethlisberger is the Steelers Digest Player of the Week.
Steelers’ ‘Killer B’s’ fuel epic, emotional win over Ravens to take the AFC North
From Jacob Feldman at Sports Illustrated:
Ben Roethlisberger unbuckled his chinstrap and flung his right hand across his body in self-disgust. After throwing a second interception near his own goal line—this one close to the end of the third quarter as Big Ben’s Steelers trailed by 7—he dropped his head on his way back to the sideline. As if the game was over. As if Baltimore-Pittsburgh matchups don’t always go down to the final whistle. As if this chapter of the NFL’s best rivalry, with the AFC North up for grabs, wasn’t also going to be special. But of course it would be.
About an hour later, Roethlisberger let his chin hit his chest again, this time in exhaustion as much as anything else. He had just led the Steelers to three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Antonio Brown had just caught a slant on the one-yard line, where three Ravens immediately greeted him. But the 180-lb. receiver had extended himself backwards and twisted far enough to stick his left hand, and the football, across the goal line for a game-winning TD. Pittsburgh had just clinched the AFC North title and a playoff spot with a 31-27 win. A classic.
“I kind of dug ourselves a hole,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “I take all the blame, but we never quit. Guys fought back.” Following CJ Mosley’s third-quarter interception and runback to the Pittsburgh 11, the Steelers D held Baltimore to its fourth field goal of the game to stay within 10. Then, the ‘burgh’s Killer B’s took over. On back-to-back possessions, Big Ben, Brown, and Le’Veon Bell fueled a pair of touchdown drives that spanned 165 yards on just 11 plays. A seven-yard scoring catch-and-run by Bell capped the second march and put the Steelers up by four, 24-20.
Baltimore answered with its own 75-yard drive, ending with a 10-yard TD run by Kyle Juszczyk. The fullback showed why he was voted to his first Pro Bowl earlier this week by finding an open gap to his right, bowling over Steelers heat-seeker Mike Mitchell, and using his left hand to stay upright long enough to dive across the goal line, pigskin extended. By the time Juszczyk was up, a grin had spread across his face as he pounded the B on his helmet. With 1:18 left, Baltimore looked poised to win its fifth straight over Pittsburgh and take control of the division, up 27-24.
For three quarters, the Steelers had appeared to be one weapon short on offense. Missing tight end Ladarius Green to a concussion and receiver Sammie Coates to a hamstring injury—on top of the absence of wideouts Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh struggled to generate first downs against the league’s No. 3 defense. Yet, on the game-winning drive, Jesse James, Eli Rogers, and Demarcus Ayers each did his part as Roethlisberger moved the ball 71 yards in 64 yards, leaving Pittsburgh needing four more with 14 ticks left. In that moment, the QB looked to his star, giving Brown his 106th catch of the year and letting him do the rest, pushing past Eric Weddle and into the end zone. “This guy is the best receiver in the world and that’s what he does,” Bell said afterwards.
Sunday’s result was the simpler one in terms of playoff implications. The Steelers are now in the playoffs, no matter what happens when Cleveland comes to town next weekend, and the Ravens—for the third year in the last four—are out.
Over the course of yet another historic Ravens-Steelers game, though, Roethlisberger wasn’t thinking about any of that. When he wasn’t leading a season-saving comeback, he was spending his Christmas “praying on the sideline,” he said. “No one stopped believing. There was a lot of love and faith in each other, and we just kept going.”
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have combined for more TDs than any QB-WR combo in Steelers’ history.
From Teresa Varley at Steelers.com:
It’s become something so commonplace, you almost take it for granted. But today, when Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a touchdown against the Ravens, it was a milestone.
Roethlisberger has now connected with Brown for 50 touchdowns, the most ever by a quarterback-receiver combination in Steelers’ history.
The Roethlisberger-Brown combo passed Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann, who had hooked up for 49 career touchdowns. Bradshaw also threw 44 touchdown passes to John Stallworth, which is third on the list.
Brown caught his first touchdown pass from Roethlisberger on Oct. 30, 2011 against the New England Patriots, a seven-yard reception in a 25-17 win. The longest touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Brown was a 79-yarder in a 14-3 win over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8, 2011. The two hooked up for three touchdowns in a 28-7 win this year on Thanksgiving night against the Indianapolis Colts, the most touchdowns they combined for in one game.
Brown has caught all 50 of his career touchdown receptions from Roethlisberger.
“Ben is our general,” said Brown. “Any time he is in the huddle, you always know game on and he is on the verge of being special and doing things to make guys around him better. When he shows up, we know what time it is. He makes guys around him better, just with the little things, being prepared, and challenging the offense. He is always encouraging everyone to get better.”
You can watch Ben’s post-game interview video here.