PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers committed too many penalties on defense and didn't make enough plays on offense during a 30-17 wipeout by the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card playoff matchup Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Ben Tate got the surprise start at running back for the Steelers, but Josh Harris also played. Neither made an impact, although Tate had a couple decent runs and then fumbled. The Steelers converted two third-down plays during their opening drive, but a third-down sack kept them out of field-goal range.
Punter Brad Wing pinned the Ravens on their 7, and Joe Flacco couldn't get out of his own way. He missed three open receivers on first down, tripped and fell for minus-5 yards on second down and then was forced to run on third down. Sam Koch's punt of 49 yards was not returned, but the Steelers had the ball on their 40 and were ready for a second possession.
A 22-yard pass to Martavis Bryant on third-and-five got the Steelers to the red zone, but that's when they bogged down. A dump-off to Harris went for no gain, and Dri Archer was buried by Terrell Suggs for a one-yard loss on second down. Elvis Dumervil sacked Ben Roethlisberger to force Shaun Suisham to kick a 45-yard field goal, but it was good.
The Ravens decided to go deep immediately on the ensuing possession, and it paid off. Cornerback Antwon Blake stayed with Jacoby Jones and made a terrific play on the ball, but free safety Mike Mitchell countered that with a dumb play. He launched himself into Jones, and was penalized for the unnecessary high hit. An 18-yard pass from Flacco to tight end Owen Daniels and several big runs by Justin Forsett, including a 14-yarder to the 5, set up a short scoring run by Bernard Pierce. The eight-play, 80-yard drive in 4:01 gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The Steelers came right back with a 12-play, 82-yard drive that lasted 6:48, but they had to settle for another field goal from Suisham after faltering again in the red zone. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 18 yards and escaped a stop behind the line to find Heath Miller for 30 yards. That play shifted field position and got the Steelers to the Ravens 38.
On third-and-one, Brown was wide open in the end zone, but Roethlisberger took too long and hung the ball up. Brown made the catch, but he was shoved out of bounds. Suisham came on for the 47-yard field goal, but 12 men on the field for the Ravens gave the Steelers five yards and a first down. On a swing pass to Tate, the Ravens were called for a personal foul. Rashaan Melvin actually hurt himself on the late hit. The nine-yard penalty made it first-and-goal at the 10, but Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play and the drive stalled after a 12-yard pass to Bryant on third-and-16. Suisham kicked a 22-yard field goal.
The Ravens answered with Justin Tucker's 28-yarder to take a 10-6 lead with 2:41 remaining in the first half, but the 10-play, 70-yard drive took just 2:59. Flacco completed passes for huge chunks, 23 yards to Steve Smith, Sr. and 19 to Daniels, but Jason Worilds punched a Ravens player for 15 yards to switch field position. Pressure by James Harrison disrupted Flacco's rhythm and the Ravens drive to force a short field goal.
The Steelers got the ball one more time in the first half and had a little more than two minutes to score. Roethlisberger hit Miller for 11 and Bryant for 14 to get things going. He surpassed Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw in playoff completions by a Steelers quarterback with the one to Bryant.
Roethlisberger also connected with Darrius Heyward-Bey for six yards and Markus Wheaton for 11 to get into field-goal range, but that was about it. After two incompletions and a four-yarder to Miller, Suisham had to kick a 47-yard field goal to get the Steelers within one, 10-9, at halftime.
Baltimore's opening drive in the second half began inauspiciously, but a 17-yard hookup from Flacco to Smith, Sr. converted a third-and-14. And a 32-yard pass-interference call on Antwon Blake changed field position. But a strip-sack by Sean Spence turned into a 13-yard loss to set back the Ravens. However, the Steelers did not recover the ball, and Flacco later hit Smith, Sr. for 14 yards on third-and-long to get into field-goal range. Tucker's 45-yarder into the open end zone gave the Ravens a 13-9 lead and capped a nine-play drive in 4:54.
The Steelers picked up just one first down on the ensuing possession and hoped for a pass-interference (it could have been called) on a deep pass, but didn't get it. So, Wing was forced to punt. And it didn't take long for the Ravens to go the length of the field, six plays and 69 yards in 3:25 to score and take a 20-9 advantage with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter.
A 40-yard pass to Smith, Sr. and nine-yarder to fullback Kyle Juszczyk got the Ravens into the red zone. Flacco capped the drive with an 11-yard toss to a wide-open Torrey Smith in the end zone. James Harrison nearly sacked Flacco, but he whiffed and the secondary couldn't stay with Smith.
The Steelers had some drama with time running out in the third, as Roethlisberger hit Wheaton for 12 and converted on fourth down with a three-yard run by Harris. But another short run, an incompletion on a long bomb and 12-yard sack ended the Steelers drive and just about stalled them for good.
There was still a full quarter to play, but too many defensive penalties and no big plays on offense appeared to doom the Steelers. However, Forsett fumbled after running into his own player, and Stephon Tuitt recovered it at the Ravens 45. On first down, Roethlisberger went for it all and connected with Brown at the goal line. He fell into the end zone, but was called down at the 1.
David DeCastro had a false start on first down to set the ball back to the 6. But Roethlisberger made up the difference with a toss to Bryant for the touchdown. The Steelers went for two and didn't get it, so the Ravens led 20-15. It was a back-shoulder toss, and Bryant beat Lardarius Webb for the score.
Another penalty, a 15-yard late hit by Shamarko Thomas, highly improved the Ravens field position on the ensuing kickoff, after two good defensive plays the Steelers gave up a 23-yard completion to tight end Daniels to get past midfield. On third down and one, the Flacco just missed connecting with Torrey Smith for a touchdown, but Tucker came on to kick a 52-yard field goal to make it 23-15 and just about cement the victory.
But there were nearly nine minutes remaining, so the Steelers had some time. That didn't matter when Roethlisberger was blitzed and intercepted by Suggs on a pass that clanked off Tate's hands. Game over.
Flacco sealed it with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore.
The Steelers Thomas blocked a punt with 1:56 remaining, and it went out of the back of the end zone for a safety to set the final score.