Steelers in AFC North driver’s seat with 4 games left

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Very rarely does a game live up to all the hype but the Steelers, Ravens game did plus some. The 13-10 Steelers victory was without a doubt one of the best games of the season, as the defenses dominated, as expected.

Troy Polamalu was once again a key factor in the victory after being responsible for the Ravens’ lone touchdown on a miscalculation that led to Anquan Boldin scoring. He gambled and rushed the passer leaving no deep protection and Boldin burned Bryant McFadden before Ryan Clark could get across field. But he made up for this play late in the game by knocking the ball out of quarterback Joe Flacco’s hands on a safety blitz which led to the sack and fumble. It was a surprise blitz which this time did catch Flacco by surprise, as Polamalu got to the quarterback before he could release the ball. LaMarr Woodley scooped the ball up and ran it 19 yards to the 9 yard line.

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BLOOD AND GLORY—Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) gets off a pass while being hit by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) during the first half Dec. 5, in Baltimore. “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.”(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

“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.”

“Everybody watching TV at home, everybody in the stadium, you all know if you see 43 at the line, four-minute offense, he’s coming,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who gave the Steelers offensive line fits all night and had 1 1/2 sacks. “It was just like, I hope we have a plan. It just didn’t feel good when I saw that hair at the line.”

“They are going to be happy on that airplane back to Pittsburgh. They have the ‘W,'” Suggs said. “In this league, that’s all. We lost, that’s all that matters.”

Ben Roethlisberger and the offense responded by taking advantage of the great field position and scored their lone touchdown with 2:51 left in the game as Isaac Redman caught a short pass from Roethlisberger and ran around and through Ravens for the 9 yard score. Even though Baltimore had plenty of time left, the defense put the clamps on them to preserve the victory. Playing with a broken nose and sprained right foot, he went 22 for 38 for 253 yards. Roethlisberger has won six straight starts against Baltimore and is 8-2 against the Ravens.

“Tough place to play, but let’s be frank, we needed to come here and even the score in this matchup,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Thankfully we did, and we’ll push on.”

The victory puts the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC North as they took sole possession of first place with just four games left. Three are at home versus the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers, before finishing out the season in Cleveland versus the improving Browns (5-7).

After winning the division last season and Marvin Lewis being named the Coach of the Year, the Bengals have reverted back to their old ways of finding a way to lose, falling to the New Orleans Saints (9-3). Drew Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 31 seconds left, rallying the Saints to their fifth consecutive victory, 34-30 over the self-destructive Bengals.

The Saints trailed for the first time after newcomer Clint Stitser made a 47-yard field goal putting the Bengals ahead 30-27 with 4:25 to go…plenty of time for Brees to pull it out, with the help of yet another Bengals blunder. His 42-yarder to Robert Meacham drew New Orleans into field-goal range. On fourth-and-2 from the Cincinnati 7, the Saints lined up and tried to draw the Bengals offside. It worked. Bengals lineman Pat Sims jumped, giving the Saints a first down. Brees threw his second touchdown pass on the next play, sending Cincinnati (2-10) to its ninth consecutive loss.

The Bengals picked up Terrell Owens to boost their offense, and it has, but the problem is that their defense can’t stop anyone. The lowly Buffalo Bills scored 48 points on them with just about everyone they’ve faced scoring 30 or more points. Owens and Chad Ochocinco had outstanding games against the Saints. Owens had 6 catches for 47 yards and Ochocinco had 5 catches for 96 yards, but it wasn’t enough.

The Bengals always play the Steelers tough but they just don’t appear to have the defense this season to stop the Steelers or anyone else, and the chances of them scoring 30 plus points against the Steelers is not likely.

After the Bengals, Pittsburgh has another big game against the Jets. Depending on what happens in the Monday Night battle with division rival New England, the Jets will either be fighting for the best record and home field advantage in the AFC or a wildcard spot in the playoffs. Both teams went into the game with the AFC best record (9-2) with the winner remaining one game ahead of the Steelers. Having lost to the Patriots, Pittsburgh could become the number one seed if the Jets beat the Patriots and they beat the Jets.

Since the Steelers have played at the level of their opponents this season, Cincinnati 2-10, Carolina 1-11 and Cleveland 5-7 may appear to be easy wins, but not necessarily. Pittsburgh needs to go either 3-1 or 4-0 to assure themselves of a playoff spot and possibly the home field advantage, because the likelihood of Baltimore losing again is slim.

Punter Daniel Sepulveda hurt his right knee in the second quarter, and placekicker Shaun Suisham was called upon to punt for the remainder of the game. Sepulveda has an ACL injury, Tomlin said, and likely is lost for the season.

Rashard Mendenhall ran for 45 yards to break 1,000 for a second straight year.

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