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Pittsburgh Steelers edge Baltimore Ravens 31-24 in AFC playoffs

PITTSBURGH — A most fitting comeback for Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers quarterback connected on a 58-yard pass to rookie Antonio Brown with less than two minutes to go.

Four plays later in the rough-and-tumble matchup, Rashard Mendenhall scored from 2 yards with 1:33 left to lift the Steelers past the Ravens 31-24 in Saturday's AFC division playoff game.

Just before his biggest pass of the season, Roethlisberger said he told offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, " 'Let's send him. Let's just chuck it deep. If they pick it, it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt. … I just throw it as far as I can.' "

He did. Brown made the biggest catch of his life, and the Steelers (13-4) are a win from their third Super Bowl in six seasons. On Jan. 23, the Steelers either play at New England or at home against the New York Jets.

"It was kind of amazing," Brown said. "It kind of stuck to my shoulder."

Roethlisberger took some hits early but threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns before his big pass on third and 19.

It has been a rugged season for the Steelers quarterback. His life and reputation were in tatters 10 months ago after sexual assault allegations that weren't prosecuted. He was suspended for the first four games but returned to help his team finish with 12 victories and a first-round bye.

The third meeting this season between AFC North rivals had the usual skirmishes and penalties but also several key turnovers.

The Steelers allowed more points in a game only once this season yet won this one because Baltimore also surrendered the second-most points this season. The 55 combined points were the most in the past 18 meetings, including playoffs.

The Ravens led 21-7 at halftime but had minus-4 yards in offense in the third quarter and 28 yards in the second half.

Baltimore led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter on an odd play. Defensive end Cory Redding returned Roethlisberger's fumble for a touchdown. The ball lay on the ground for a few seconds as both teams thought the play was an incompletion, but Redding picked it up and ran 13 yards.

With Baltimore up 21-7, Steelers safety Ryan Clark forced a rare fumble by running back Ray Rice on a screen pass, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered at the 23. The play ignited Pittsburgh's rally.

"We felt good at the half," Rice said. "Our defense had them stopped, and I thought we were going to come out and handle our business. But then the situation happened — fumble, turnover, another turnover."

The Ravens' last chance ended when T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped a fourth-down pass at the Steelers 38 with 1:03 left.

"What better way to put the Ravens out of the tournament," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "They keep asking for us, and we keep putting them out of the tournament. They're going to be ticked about this for a long time."

Steelers 31

Ravens 24

Pittsburgh Steelers edge Baltimore Ravens 31-24 in AFC playoffs 01/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 11:25pm]
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