4:15 PM ET, December 30, 2007
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers had already accomplished their primary goals in the regular season, so the AFC North champions entered the finale against the Baltimore Ravens with a different objective: Stay healthy.The Steelers sustained a few injuries in their 27-21 loss Sunday, but more important was the fact that several key players -- including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward -- were held out to allow their wounds to heal.Minutes after the game ended, and perhaps well before then, the Steelers turned their attention toward the Jacksonville Jaguars, their opponent Saturday night in the opening round of the postseason."Ready or not, here we come," first-year coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's the reality of it. We're a 10-6 team, we won our division, we've got a home game versus the five seed and we look forward to preparing for that."Pittsburgh could have captured the No. 3 seed by defeating Baltimore, coupled with a loss by San Diego, but the Steelers downplayed that scenario earlier in the week.It wasn't just idle talk. If this game meant anything to the Steelers, they probably would have played Roethlisberger, Ward, safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback/kick returner Allen Rossum. All were on the inactive list, nursing minor injuries.Playing for the first time since replacing Roethlisberger in a 38-7 rout of Baltimore on Nov. 5, Charlie Batch went 16-for-31 for 218 yards and two interceptions. Fifty-nine of those yards came on a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 7:13 remaining.That made it 27-14, and after a successful onside kick, Batch threw a fourth-down TD pass to Cedrick Wilson with 3:36 left.But the comeback bid ended with an interception by David Pittman in the closing seconds.Musa Smith ran for 83 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start, helping the Ravens (5-11) earn their first victory since Oct. 14 and end a nine-game losing streak."I took a deep breath once we got that interception," Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said. "All that frustration just came out. No matter how the season went, we were able to win our last game, and that's good."Pittsburgh hopes to be playing well into January. The Steelers didn't show much emotion in the rain while losing in Baltimore for a fifth consecutive season, but they should be far more inspired -- and healthy -- against the Jaguars."We played flat. We really didn't get anything going," Wilson said. "We made a few big plays, but at the same time we really didn't execute like we should have."Najeh Davenport, elevated to the starter's role last week after Willie Parker went down with a season-ending broken leg, ran for 27 yards on 12 carries before leaving in the third quarter.The Ravens, meanwhile, will enter the offseason without the burden of a franchise-record losing streak that included five defeats by at least 14 points."It was great," coach Brian Billick said of the victory. "Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come."Plagued by turnovers all season, Baltimore took advantage of one to go up 7-0.Starting in place of Rossum, Willie Reid fumbled the opening kickoff and Devard Darling recovered at the Pittsburgh 35. Eight plays later, Smith scored from 2.One week earlier, Smith was third on the depth chart. But Willis McGahee fractured two ribs last week in a loss to Seattle, and backup Mike Anderson was out with a hamstring injury.Pittsburgh's first possession ended when Batch threw an incomplete pass on a fourth-down play from the Baltimore 32, and the Ravens moved 57 yards before Matt Stover kicked a field goal to make it 10-0.On the ensuing kickoff, Reid lost the ball after slipping on the wet turf. It was ruled a fumble, but a replay reversed the call.A 32-yard touchdown run by fourth-string running back Cory Ross made it 17-0. Davenport scored from the 1 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, but Stover kicked a field goal just before halftime to make it 20-7.A 15-yard pass from rookie Troy Smith to Darling upped the margin to 20 points in the third quarter."We didn't start fast. Hopefully this will be a good lesson for us heading into next week," Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller said. "We've got to start from the opening kickoff and be on top of our game."Smith, making his second NFL start, went 16-for-27 for 171 yards.
Pittsburgh allowed six rushing TDs this year, three by Baltimore. ... Steelers injuries included T Max Starks (left knee sprain), LB James Harrison (shoulder bruise), CB Bryant McFadden (ankle), Reid (shoulder). ... Mason finished with a team-record 103 catches.
Pittsburgh put on a pretty awful performance through three quarters. The Steelers turned the ball over and were very sloppy on offense and special teams, and the defense was even worse. Pittsburgh couldn't slow down Baltimore's rushing attack and missed tackles at a stunning rate. With the plethora of Baltimore injuries and Pittsburgh resting many of its best guys, almost everyone on the field was a backup, but the Ravens do deserve credit for playing hard and snapping a long losing streak. Baltimore QB Troy Smith made plays with his arm and legs, but most impressive was the way he kept his head and was poised in the pocket. The Steelers came to life late in the game and began finally executing, but it was too little too late.
-- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Team Stat Comparison
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.3||4.8|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|TD||10:08||Musa Smith 2 Yd Run (Matt Stover Kick)||0||7|
|FG||01:48||Matt Stover 28 Yd||0||10|
|TD||13:27||Cory Ross 32 Yd Run (Matt Stover Kick)||0||17|
|TD||10:07||Najeh Davenport 1 Yd Run (Jeff Reed Kick)||7||17|
|FG||00:17||Matt Stover 31 Yd||7||20|
|TD||03:41||Devard Darling 15 Yd Pass From Troy Smith (Matt Stover Kick)||7||27|
|TD||07:13||Santonio Holmes 59 Yd Pass From Charlie Batch (Jeff Reed Kick)||14||27|
|TD||03:36||Cedrick Wilson 7 Yd Pass From Charlie Batch (Jeff Reed Kick)||21||27|