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No Ben means no win for Steelers

November 19, 2012
By Buck Frank ( , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - It was a typical Steelers-Bal-timore Ravens game Sunday night.

Neither team was able to muster much offense, the defenses delivered big hits and didn't allow many points, and several players left the game bruised and battered.

And, in what also has become the norm, the Steelers couldn't deliver a victory with starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the game.

Article Photos

All Mirror photos by J.D. Cavrich
Byron Leftwich gets sacked by the Ravens defense.

The Ravens strengthened their lead in the AFC North Division, improving to 8-2, by stopping the Roethlisberger-less Steelers, 13-10, at Heinz Field. The Steelers had their four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 6-4.

"Tough football game - nip and tuck,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "The difference is obviously that we didn't find a significant play, particularly in the waning moments and in any of the three phases to be the difference, to put points on the board and allow us to get out of the stadium with the win.''

The Steelers offense looked helpless at times with Byron Leftwich under center and minus Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown. Leftwich completed less than 50 percent of his passes (18-of-39) and finished with a quarterback rating of 51.3.

The running game provided a little help with the rotation of Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall gaining 88 yards on 23 carries. But the Steelers were unspectacular on third down, converting just five of 17 chances against a Ravens defense that was ranked 28th out of 32 in the NFL and was without leader Ray Lewis.

"We didn't execute on third downs as we could have,'' Steelers left tackle Max Starks said. "We missed little assignments and had some mistakes, more so than what [the Ravens] did in this game.''

The Steelers defense delivered a quality performance by holding the Ravens to just 200 total yards and stopping them on 11-of-14 third-down chances. Baltimore's offense only scored six points, and both of the field goals came after the Steelers offense committed turnovers.

But as well as the Steelers defense played, Pittsburgh's special teams unit gave up the big play of the game by allowing Baltimore's Jacoby Jones to return a punt 63 yards for a score in the first quarter.

The touchdown by Jones was his third of the season and second in the last two weeks.

"Our special teams guys are upset about it,'' Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. "We will look at it tomorrow and go to work.''

The Steelers offense actually got off to a good start and wasted little time putting points on the board. They received the opening kickoff and immediately gained 42 yards when Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams interfered on a deep pass to Mike Wallace.

After a 7-yard David Gilreath run on an end-around, Leftwich escaped out of the pocket and outran Terrell Suggs down the right sideline, splitting two defenders and stumbling into the end zone for a 31-yard scoring run.

The Ravens, though, cut their deficit to 7-3 a little later on a Justin Tucker 26-yard field that was set up by a Wallace fumble that Baltimore's Ed Reed scooped up and returned 17 yards to the Steelers' 12-yard line.

The Ravens then gained a 10-7 advantage before the first quarter ended when Jones fielded Drew Butler's punt, sprinted up the middle and outran Butler to the end zone.

"They did a nice job,'' Tomlin said. "They double-viced our gunners there, and when they do that, the tackle has to come from the core of the punt formation and it didn't. But nice execution by them - obviously a significant football play.''

The Ravens missed a chance to build on their lead at the beginning of the second quarter when Tucker was wide right on a 41-yard field-goal attempt, and the Steelers trailed by three points at halftime.

A promising Steelers drive at the beginning of the third quarter was abruptly ended when Baltimore's Corey Graham picked off Leftwich in Ravens territory. The Ravens didn't waste the opportunity, and Tucker's 39-yard field goal extended their lead to 13-7.

The Steelers offense seemed to gain some momentum near the end of the third quarter. Backed by strong runs from Jonathan Dwyer and a 31-yard play in which Leftwich connected with Emmanuel Sanders and Reed was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit, the Steelers marched 80 yards and cut their deficit to 13-10 with a 22-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

The Steelers settled for the field goal after they just missed a touchdown when Wallace couldn't get both of his feet inbounds in the end zone on a 4-yard pass.

"I thought it was good,'' Leftwich said. "I thought it was a touchdown when I let it go.''

But the Steelers never got into scoring position again, having two fourth-quarter drives ended near midfield by Ravens sacks. The Steelers, out of timeouts, couldn't pull out a miracle when they had the ball with one minute remaining in the game and lost for the fifth time to the Ravens with Roethlisberger on the sideline.

"I think it's two teams that play very similar styles,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They're two very rugged teams. They're always two good defenses. We're still in that category now. It's a great rivalry.''

The rivalry will continue in two weeks when the teams meet again in Baltimore. Whether or not Roethlisberger will be able to play in that game is still questionable.

The Steelers play in Cleveland next Sunday.

"We are just focused on correcting our mistakes from tonight and getting back on the field next Sunday and getting a win,'' Steelers tight end Heath Miller said.

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