December 26, 2004

Steelers Top Ravens 20-7, Go 8-0 at Home

PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlisberger gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a lot bigger scare than the Baltimore Ravens did. Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in a run-heavy offense before being pulled from a 20-7 victory Sunday with an unspecified rib injury caused when he was blindsided on a scoring pass.

The Steelers (14-1) wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye that means after their Jan. 2 game at Buffalo they won't play again until Jan. 15 or Jan. 16. But a team that has been playing without six injured regulars sustained two more injuries, as both Roethlisberger and cornerback Deshea Townsend (wrist) were pulled in the fourth quarter.

After being leveled by Terrell Suggs while throwing a 2-yard scoring pass to Jerame Tuman that put Pittsburgh up 17-7 late in the third quarter, Roethlisberger was assisted off the field — a large clump of grass sticking out of the left side of his face mask.

Roethlisberger returned to complete throws of 26 yards to Plaxico Burress and 9 to Jerome Bettis on Pittsburgh's next drive, but was replaced by Tommy Maddox.

Roethlisberger's injury did not appear serious — he threw along the sidelines after being lifted — but was a worrisome note for the Steelers on a day they ran their franchise-record winning streak to 13 games and all but eliminated the rival Ravens (8-7) from playoff contention.

The Steelers also went 8-0 at home for the first time since their last Super Bowl championship season in 1979, with every victory by at least a nine-point margin following an opening game 24-21 win over Oakland.

Bettis ran for 117 yards in his sixth 100-yard game this season — all in place of Duce Staley (hamstring), who sat out for the sixth time in eight games. Bettis also moved past No. 4 Eric Dickerson on the NFL career rushing list with 13,294 yards and closed to within 60 yards of his ninth 1,000-yard season.

About all the Ravens accomplished during their fourth loss in five games was putting out a Steelers quarterback with an injury for the second time this season. Maddox injured his right elbow in a 30-13 loss at Baltimore on Sept. 19, the injury that caused Roethlisberger to become the starter.

Pittsburgh hasn't lost since and is assured of matching the best record in franchise history (14-2 in 1978) even if it loses at Buffalo.

Burress returned from a four-week layoff with a sore hamstring and made an immediate impact with three catches for 97 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh drove 80 yards in five plays on its opening possession.

Three times the Ravens advanced to at least the Pittsburgh 35 without scoring.

Baltimore briefly tied it at 7 on Jamal Lewis' 5-yard TD run, but Joey Porter's interception of Kyle Boller's tipped pass led to Jeff Reed's 23-yard field goal.

The Steelers took control on their opening drive of the second half, using up 8 1/2 minutes during a 14-play, 71-yard drive that featured 12 consecutive runs ahead of Roethlisberger's scoring pass to Tuman.

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