Ben Roethlisberger's career will likely continue for at least one more week. In a vintage Roethlisberger performance, the 18-year gunslinger delivered the 57th game-winning drive of his career to lift the Steelers to a 16-13 overtime win over the Ravens. The Steelers won the game on Chris Boswell's 36-yard field goal with 1:59 left in overtime on a kick that was set up by Roethlisberger's fourth-down completion to Ray-Ray McCloud four plays earlier.
At 9-7-1, the Steelers will clinch a playoff berth as long as Sunday night's Raiders-Chargers game does not end in a tie. Along with taking care of business in Baltimore, Pittsburgh received outside help by virtue of the Jaguars' upset win over the Colts. The loss officially knocked Baltimore (8-9) out of playoff contention.
The Steelers took a 13-10 lead on Roethlisberger's 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool with 2:56 left in regulation. But the Ravens were able to force overtime on Justin Tucker's 46-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter. In overtime, Pittsburgh's defense forced a Baltimore punt to set up the Steelers' 15-play, 65-yard drive that included three third-down conversions by Roethlisberger as well as his crucial fourth-down throw to McCloud. Najee Harris' 15-yard run two plays later set up Boswell's game-winning field goal.
Pittsburgh won despite playing most of the game without Harris, who suffered an elbow injury on the Steelers' opening possession. In what was likely the final regular-season game of his career, Roethlisberger engineered his seventh game-winning drive of the season, an NFL best. He finished with 244 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 30 of 44 passing.
Here's a closer look at how the Steelers pulled off the win in Baltimore.
Why the Steelers won
Defense carried the Steelers for most the game. Henry Mondeaux's recovery of Tyler Huntley's fumble set up the game's first points on Boswell's first-quarter field goal. Down 10-6, Cam Sutton kept the Ravens from adding to their lead with an end zone pick of Huntley to open the fourth quarter. With the Ravens trying to win the game at the end of regulation, Minkah Fitzpatrick's big hit on Marquise Brown helped force an incompletion and overtime.
Pittsburgh's defense then gave the ball back to Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense after forcing a Ravens punt at the start of overtime. Among their strong defensive performances was the play of linebacker T.J. Watt, who tied Michael Strahan's sack record while also batting down a pass that forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal at the end of the first half.
Like the rest of the offense, Roethlisberger stepped up when it mattered most. They responded to Latavius Murray's 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter with Boswell's second field goal of the game. Down 10-6, Roethlisberger engineered a 10-play-50-yard drive that was capped off by his touchdown pass to Claypool. The drive also included a 20-yard completion to McCloud on third-and-9 on the Ravens' 39-yard-line.
Roethlisberger completed three third-and-long pass attempts on Pittsburgh's game-winning drive before he hit McCloud for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-8 with 2:27 left. Roethlisberger completed several big passes to rookie Pat Freiermuth that included a 14-yard completion on Pittsburgh's first third-down on its game-winning drive. The Steelers then put the game in the hands of one of the NFL's most reliable kickers in Boswell, who made 36 of his 40 field goal attempts during the regular season.
Why the Ravens lost
Baltimore squandered a dominant performance from its defense for the game's first three quarters. And while the Ravens ran for 249 yards on 36 carries (150 of those by Murray), they failed to pick up the necessary yards in the game's most critical moments. The defense also was unable to come up with a big play on Pittsburgh's game-winning drive. The unit did not put nearly enough pressure on Roethlisberger, who was sacked just once.
Despite the Jaguars' big lead over the Colts, it appeared that the Steelers were not going to handle their own business after falling behind 10-3 on Murray's touchdown run. But Pittsburgh's offense responded with an eight-play, 50-yard drive that ended with Boswell's second field goal of the game. The Steelers were unable to tie the score, but their offense showed that they could put together a long scoring drive after being unable to do so during the first half. It set the stage for what was to come at the end of the game.
Play of the game
The season came down to fourth-and-8 at Baltimore's 41-yard-line with 2:27 left in overtime. If the Steelers were unable to convert, it would have given Huntley and the Ravens a short field and plenty of time to get into Tucker's range. But Huntley and the Ravens would remain on the sideline after Roethlisberger hit McCloud, who made the team's initial 53-man roster after a solid preseason. It was likely the final regular-season pass attempt for Roethlisberger, who improved to 19-11 against the Ravens for his career.
"That's Steelers-Ravens right there. I just can't say enough about the men in that locker room. Their collective will. It was on display throughout. ... I'm just appreciative of it, and particularly, some some of those young ones. ... The growth and development of these young guys throughout this journey and the negativity that's usually associated with growth and development did not take away from their efforts. They smiled in the face of it, and I'm appreciative of that.
"And obviously, I'm appreciative of our quarterback, QB1. He's been smiling in the face of adversity for 18 years. Even though it's not surprising, it's still appreciated." -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on his team, Roethlisberger and his young players, as he specifically mentioned Harris, Freiermuth, and McCloud overcoming adversity
"You guys buried us when we were 1-3. We've got a lot of warts, but we're here. That's been our position since September. I'm just appreciative of that mental fortitude being displayed by those men in that locker room." -- Tomlin on the Steelers' 2021 season after a slow start
"We just like to stress people out early (laughs). I think it shows something about this team that you can fight and never give up. You guys have asked me a million times what's the issue [with the slow starts], but it would be nice to figure it out now." -- Roethlisberger on the Steelers' fast start after another slow finish
"It was crazy, because my dad actually texted me last night and asked how I was doing. ... For whatever reason, it didn't feel like, 'OK, this is it.' I feel like last week was so much more emotional and took it all out and made me feel like, 'Let's go play.' So at no point during this game did I think, 'Man, this is it. It's almost over.' It just didn't feel like that, and I'm glad it didn't have those feelings." -- Roethlisberger on his mindset during Sunday's game
"I'm not going to miss playing them (laughs). ... Playing these guys is always one when you wake up the next day and you're hurting. It's never dirty, it's just good, old-fashioned football. Someone on the sidelines asked me if this is how these games always go. I can only think of one or two times where it wasn't something like this. ... I'm just so thankful for this rivalry and thankful for the games and the players that I've gotten to play against in this rivalry, and just proud that we were able to get it today." -- Roethlisberger on his experience in the the Steelers-Ravens rivalry
"It's up there, and I think part of it is because there was so many people that got involved. So many people helped make this happen. ... This is a group that we just wanted to try to get it, and I hope the NFL gives T.J. Watt a half a sack." -- Roethlisberger on where this win ranked for him and the statisticians not crediting T.J. Watt for a half-sack on Huntley's first-quarter fumble
The Steelers will likely travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in the wild card round assuming that the Raiders and Chargers do not tie each other on Sunday night. The Ravens will be home for the playoffs for the first time since 2017, the year before they drafted future league MVP Lamar Jackson.