BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens fully expected to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers — even if few others gave them a chance of pulling off the upset. In a season of defeats and injuries, the Ravens added a memorable chapter to this contentious rivalry with a 20-17 victory Sunday.
The Ravens (5-10) had lost three straight, the last two by a combined 69-20 score. In this one, however, they turned back the Steelers (9-6), who were riding a three-game winning streak and striving for a playoff berth. “This might sound brash, but we believed the whole time that we were going to beat Pittsburgh,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Records, score, how good they’re playing — nothing matters when you’re playing Pittsburgh.”
Smith had an interception and limited the dangerous Antonio Brown to 61 yards, part of a strong defensive effort that gave Baltimore with its first season sweep of its AFC North rivals since 2011. “It makes this season because obviously we can’t go to the playoffs,” Smith said.
Making his seventh career start — the first with Baltimore — Ryan Mallett went 28 for 41 for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown. Signed by the Ravens on Dec. 15, he was the fourth quarterback to start for Baltimore in a span of six weeks. “Getting the start was awesome,” he said.
“Getting a win was even better.” The stunning, agonizing loss ended Pittsburgh’s 10-game winning streak in December. The Steelers are still in contention for a wild-card berth, but they will need to beat Cleveland next week and get some help. “We didn’t handle the business in the stadium today, so we’re left to look around at other stadiums,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Such is life this time of year when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. And we didn’t today. We take ownership over that.”
DeAngelo Williams ran for 100 yards and had six catches for 53 yards. Ben Roethlisberger went 23 for 33 for 227 yards with two interceptions. “We controlled our own destiny and we gave the ball away,” Roethlisberger said.
Baltimore, which came in with a minus-15 turnover differential, had two takeaways and did not commit a turnover. Up 20-10 with just over seven minutes left, the Ravens appeared to clinch the upset when Smith ran 101 yards with an interception for a touchdown. But Baltimore’s Courtney Upshaw lined up offside on the play, negating the TD, and Williams scored his second touchdown with 6:33 left. The Ravens held on. On fourth-and-15 at the Pittsburgh 37, a pass from Roethlisberger to Markus Wheaton fell incomplete following the two-minute warning. The Steelers didn’t get the ball again until there was 4 seconds left.
“We were thinking we were going to beat them, and we knew it,” Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb said.
Down 13-3 at halftime, the Steelers got back into it with the aid of two pass interference calls totaling 53 yards. The penalties, against Smith and Kendrick Lewis, led to a 1-yard run by Williams that cut the deficit to three points. Later in the quarter, the Ravens put together a 13-play drive that concluded with a punt. Though the march did not produce points, Baltimore kept the ball away from the Steelers for nearly seven minutes and pinned Pittsburgh on its own 9. Roethlisberger threw his second interception a few minutes later. Mallett then connected with Chris Givens for 39 yards and Kyle Juszczyk for 34 to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Javorius Allen, making it 20-10.
Roethlisberger went 7 for 12 for 66 yards and an interception in the first half, a 38.9 quarterback rating. After the Ravens stuffed Williams on a fourth-down run following the opening kickoff, Mallett’s first drive with Baltimore could not have gone better. He moved the Ravens 75 yards in 15 plays, went 4 for 4 on third down and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Chris Matthews to complete a possession that lasted more than seven minutes. The Steelers then settled for a field goal after an apparent 16-yard touchdown catch by Brown was overturned by a replay.
Mallett produced in his second series, too, covering 61 yards in 11 plays before Justin Tucker kicked a field goal for a 10-3 lead. It marked the first time this season Baltimore got as many as 10 points on its first two possessions. An interception by Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith led to a 50-yard field goal late in the half.