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Late Strike Sends Steelers over Ravens, to Brink of Playoffs




BALTIMORE — It wasn’t pretty, and it was definitely painful, but the Pittsburgh Steelers did what they needed to do to maximize their playoff chances with a 17-10 Week 18 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.

The game was played in near-freezing temperatures and a pouring rainstorm that soaked and froze the competitors and fans alike, and made for extremely difficult offensive football.

The Steelers scored in the first quarter on a Najee Harris run. The Ravens answered in the second quarter on a pass from backup Tyler Huntley to tight end Isaiah Likely.

Then the teams settled into a back-and-forth slog-fest that matched the conditions. Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph fumbled three times and running back Jaylen Warren fumbled twice, though the Ravens got just two of the five loose pigskins.

The slog was broken by a lightning blot, not from the rainstorm, but from Rudolph. The Steelers quarterback, who had been harried while passing for most of the game, stood tall and found Diontae Johnson streaking through the middle of the Baltimore defense. Johnson hauled it in for a 71-yard touchdown, the longest reception of his season.

The strike put the Steelers ahead, and another fumble rear its head to help seal the game, as safety Eric Rowe punched the ball loose from Ravens running back Gus Edwards on the following possession to set up a Chris Boswell field goal to make it a two-score game.

Justin Tucker added a chip shot with 20 seconds to play, but the Steelers recovered the ensuing onside kick to secure the win.

The victory was certainly a costly one, though, as the Steelers lost outside linebacker T.J. Watt to what appeared to be a significant knee injury in the third quarter. He was quickly ruled out of the game and the team did not update his status beyond that before the end of the game.

Offensive stats were reflective of the conditions, as Rudolph finished with 152 yards passing, 71 on one play, but was able to complete 18 of 20 passes.

Najee Harris did the heavy lifting offensively, running 26 times for 112 yards and the early score. He crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the third straight season, the first Steelers player to do so to start his carer.

With the victory, the Steelers moved to 10-7, but have still not clinched a postseason berth. They either need a Houston-Indianapolis tie on Saturday night, or for Jacksonville or Buffalo to lose on Sunday.