With one final throw, Lamar Jackson threatened to knock off the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team.
With the 28-24 victory, the Steelers matched another milestone set by the 1978 team, reaching 7-0 for only the second time in franchise history.
After an all-around uninspiring first half that saw the Steelers, one of the league’s best run-stopping defenses, give up 179 rushing yards, and its veteran quarterback complete just 4 of 10 passes for 24 yards, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the defense worked in sync to overcome a 17-7 halftime deficit.
“We did not function well in a lot of ways,” coach Mike Tomlin said after the game.
Roethlisberger’s first drive of the third quarter looked more like the stagnant offense of the first half, but he shook off his slow start after that. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth, he orchestrated a scoring drive where the Steelers didn’t run the ball once, and he completed 7 of 9 passes for 80 yards. He finished it off with his second touchdown throw of the day, this one to Chase Claypool, to go ahead 28-24.
The victory was especially sweet for Roethlisberger, who relishes the rivalry and missed both meetings last season with his elbow injury. He was spotted on the sideline getting that elbow massaged by the team doctor after taking a hard sack in the first half.
While Roethlisberger bounced back in the second half, so, too, did the run defense.
The Ravens finished with 265 rush yards, the most in a game vs. the Steelers since 1993, when the Seahawks rushed for 267, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Steelers came into Sunday’s game boasting the league’s second-best rushing defense, holding opponents to an average of 68.8 rushing yards per game. The Ravens and their NFL-best rushing attack more than doubled that in the first half with 179 rushing yards. The Steelers lost nose tackle Tyson Alualu early in the first quarter, and for a defense that was already down Devin Bush and Mike Hilton, losing another defender in the run game allowed the Ravens to run roughshod — even without two starting offensive linemen.
But in the third quarter, the Ravens had just 16 rushing yards and just 27 total yards of offense. The next quarter, the Ravens got back to what worked and started pounding the ball with seven minutes left, taking time off the clock as they moved methodically down the field. The Ravens ran nine straight run plays, including a 20-yard gain by running back Gus Edwards after the Steelers went up by four points.
But the Steelers stopped the Ravens on fourth down when Jackson attempted to go for it just yards from the end zone. The offense couldn’t sustain the following drive, though, and had to hold off the Ravens one more time with just 52 seconds left.
With Fitzpatrick’s final pass breakup, the Steelers held on. They now reign as the league’s only undefeated team.