Wow! What a game, right? This latest matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens was a throwback to the classic games that both these teams used to play from 2008-2010, when the final score would be no greater than 3 points, regardless who won. Not only were both teams AFC North Division rivals, but they were also contenders. But then the rivalry died down a bit with the Cincinnati Bengals taking the Ravens place for a few years.
Suffice to say this Christmas Day matchup between the two teams renewed this rivalry as both teams were fighting for the Division title. Like a boxing match, it was truly a question of who wanted it most. The Steelers objective was simple: Win and they’re in. They would clinch the AFC North and earn a spot in the playoffs as the #3 seed. If they lost, then the Ravens would complete the sweep for the second straight season, which would give them the tiebreaker over the Steelers going into Week 17 in which the Steelers would’ve had to beat the Cleveland Browns and then rely on the Bengals to beat the Ravens. Nah, that wasn’t going to happen as the Bengals are a mess of a team that can only beat themselves.
The Steelers decided to handle their own business as they beat the Ravens 31-27 in front of a sold-out Heinz Field and a national audience on NFL Network. The Steelers are now in the playoffs for the 3rd straight season and won their 2nd division in 3 years. They’ve also won their 10th game and 6th in a row after losing four straight. It’s hard to believe that this team was once 4-5 after losing a crushing game to the Dallas Cowboys, who have the NFL’s best record. Fans and media alike said this team was done and that they should fire Head Coach Mike Tomlin, but six wins later there’s nothing but praise.
Nothing in 2016 has gone easy for the Steelers, and this game was no exception. The Steelers had to overcome being down 20-10 after leading the Ravens 7-6. The Ravens were in the Red Zone frequently, and it was evident they were gaining steam, but it amazes me that they were only able to score two touchdowns the whole game. But the Steelers had to overcome turnovers and missed tackles and eventually they would score 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to get the victory.
The key to this victory was the dramatic final drive in which the Steelers drove 75 yards on ten plays to score the winning TD. QB Ben Roethlisberger found WR Antonio Brown on a 4-yard pass in which Brown fought through 2 Raven defender and used his left hand to extend the ball over the goal line for the winning score. I have never seen anything like it, and if you missed it, you need to watch the replays. Brown made a veteran move that proved that he, like his teammates, wanted this win and the division title. Brown would finish the game with ten catches for 96 yards and the huge TD. He would also become the second player in NFL history to record four straight 100-reception seasons.
RB Le’Veon Bell would also have an awesome game as he rushed 20 times for 122 yards against the Ravens, something that a Steeler RB hardly has done since the days of Jerome Bettis. He scored two huge 4th quarter touchdowns which helped the Steelers rebound from that 20-10 deficit.
But if there were a Steelers player that deserved a game ball for this victory, it would go to Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger who overcame his mistakes to lead his team to victory. Big Ben had two costly interceptions that resulted in 10 Ravens points, but he shook those off to lead the offense to those 21-unanswered points, including that 16-play, 75-yard drive with 1:18 left in the game. Big Ben was flawless on that drive as he was able to find Brown, TE Jesse James, Eli Rogers, and Bell. It was a reminder of how the great quarterbacks get it done when the game is on the line.
During my years of watching football, I have seen Hall of Famers Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Farve and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning get it done in clutch situations and I have to say that Big Ben also deserves to be on this list. At 34, he’s proven to be an elite NFL QB after being named to his 5th Pro Bowl. He also has 46,535 career yards and is two touchdowns away from 300 for his career, good for 10th on the all-time list. Plus, he’s won 2 Super Bowls and been to 3. That sounds like a future Hall of Famer to me.
Big Ben lead a Steelers offense that was missing 3 of it’s Wide Receivers (Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and Sammie Coates), a tight end (La Darius Green) and still got it done with what he had you know like a real leader does.
I felt like for the Steelers to win this game; they would need Big Ben to lead the way, and he did just that. As he goes, so does the Steelers. After he had led the Steelers to a 7-0 lead when he found TE Xavier Grimble for a 20-yard TD, he cooled off, and so did the Steelers. When he threw the two interceptions, the Steelers fell behind.
After being down 20-10, Big Ben led the Steelers on a drive that ended with a 7-yard TD run by Bell, and on the next drive, he led them down the field and found Bell for a 7-yard TD pass. And on that final drive, he found Brown for that impressive TD with 9 seconds left. That’s how leaders do it. For the game, Big Ben finished with 279 yards, three touchdowns, and those two interceptions.
For the Ravens, they saw their playoff hopes come to an end as they were mathematically eliminated with the loss. They did what they could to win this game as QB Joe Flacco led his team to scores on several drives. He found WR Steve Smith Sr. for one score and led his team to a drive that ended with a 10-yard TD by FB Kyle Juszcyk for what looked like the winning touchdown as the Ravens lead 27-24.
But that was before Big Ben, and the Steelers took over, and the rest was history.
Please e-mail Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him @UrbanmediaRay on Twitter