BALTIMORE (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger has a broken nose to go with his sprained right foot, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a few more injuries to worry about.
And yet, they feel a whole lot better about their position in the playoff race than the Baltimore Ravens.
Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Isacc Redman with 2:51 left after Troy Polamalu forced a fumble with a sack of Joe Flacco, and the Steelers beat the Ravens 13-10 on Sunday night to gain sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
The victory put the Steelers in control of their own destiny, although Roethlisberger would hear nothing of it in the jubilant Pittsburgh locker room.
“We can’t look at it like that,” he said. “When you start looking at it that way, you start to get in trouble. All I know is that we have the Bengals next week.”
Surely, though, the Steelers will take some time to savor this one. It was a typical duel between two of the NFL’s most physical teams, and although Roethlisberger threw the winning pass, the Pittsburgh defense — and Polamalu in particular — deserve credit for the victory.
The game turned when Polamalu hit Flacco’s arm on a safety blitz. The loose ball was taken 19 yards by Lamarr Woodley to the Baltimore 9, setting up Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown.
After throwing two incomplete passes, Roethlisberger dumped a short toss over the middle to Redman, who broke tackles by Dawan Landry and Jarret Johnson on his way to the end zone.
“We still had the opportunity to make a tackle at the end and missed it,” Johnson said. “I should have made the tackle. It would have been big to hold them to three. We didn’t get it done.”
Baltimore’s ensuing drive ended at the Pittsburgh 31 when Flacco bounced a fourth-down pass to Ed Dickson with 33 seconds remaining.
“They are going to be happy on that airplane back to Pittsburgh. They have the `W,”‘ Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “In this league, that’s all. We lost, that’s all that matters.”
Roethlisberger broke his nose on Pittsburgh’s first series, and limped away from constant pressure all night. Yet he still went 22 for 38 for 253 yards.
The rugged quarterback has won six straight starts against Baltimore and is 8-2 against the Ravens. He missed this season’s first game between the teams while serving an NFL-issued suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy.
It was going to take more than a broken nose and a bum foot to keep him out of this one. Afterward, Roethlisberger laughingly suggested that his battered nose helped take his mind off his ailing foot.
“It hurt a lot,” he said of the foot, “but the broken nose took some of the pain away.”
Baltimore blew a fourth-quarter lead for the sixth time this season and had its eight-game home winning streak end.
“Six? You’re not going to win a lot of games doing that,” Johnson said, “so we got to get that fixed.”
Flacco was 17 for 33 for 266 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin that put Baltimore up 7-0 in the first quarter. But Flacco’s fumble was the most decisive play of the game.
“It was an all-out blitz. They brought everybody,” Flacco said. “I took three steps and raised my arm and was getting hit. It was pretty shocking.”
Said Polamalu: “The coaches made a great call. I was surprised they were passing in that situation.”
Both starting tight ends were knocked out of the game.
Baltimore’s Todd Heap strained a hamstring on the first play from scrimmage and did not return, and Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller suffered a concussion in the third quarter in a collision with Ravens cornerback Chris Carr.
The Steelers also lost right tackle Flozell Adams, who sprained his ankle in the third quarter.
The hitting was so hard that even Pittsburgh’s punter got injured. Daniel Sepulveda hurt his right knee in the second quarter, and kicker Shaun Suisham was called upon to punt for the remainder of the game.
Sepulveda has an ACL injury, coach Mike Tomlin said, and is likely lost for the season.
Blood and glory. Steelers and Ravens. The words just seem to go together.
The individual battle between Suggs and Roethlisberger typified the rivalry. Suggs had 11/2 sacks, hounded Roethlisberger all night and earned the respect of the Pittsburgh quarterback.
“He is a heck of a player,” Roethlisberger said. “One time after a play, I looked at him and he was bleeding from the mouth. I was bleeding from the nose. That says it all about a Ravens-Steelers football game.”
NOTES: Baltimore’s 92-yard scoring drive was the longest against Pittsburgh this season. … The Ravens’ T.J. Houshmandzadeh went over 7,000 yards receiving.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)