Steelers claim AFC North title on Christmas Day

Posted on Dec 26 2016 - 10:15am by Rachael McKriger

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave their fans the best Christmas present yet: a win over the Baltimore Ravens.

However, it wasn’t just simply a “win over the Ravens.” The Steelers also claimed the AFC North champions title, clinching their playoff berth. In addition, the loss for the Ravens meant no playoffs for them. Make that back-to-back weeks where the Steelers have eliminated division rivals from the playoffs (they did it last week against the Cincinnati Bengals).

Antonio Brown was the man that put the star on top of the Christmas tree. The Steelers went down 27-24, but got the ball back with 1:18 to play. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rushed his offense down the field, but didn’t settle for a field goal attempt from Chris Boswell. Instead, he found Brown, who stretched over two Ravens defenders and the goal line for the touchdown.

“No one stopped believing,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s pretty special the way we won it. Especially after feeling the way I felt at a certain point in that game and feeling like you let guys down and you blew it. So to come back and win it is pretty special.”

It wasn’t a perfect win, by any means. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions into the arms of C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr. However, Roethlisberger’s Xavier Grimble, Le’Veon Bell and Brown were good enough. In addition, Bell rushed for a touchdown while adding 122 yards on 20 carries.

Adding on more points to his tally this season was Boswell. Boswell tacked on a field goal from 36 yards, while converting all four of his extra point attempts. Opposite of Boswell was Justin Tucker, who won the Pro Bowl vote over Boswell. Tucker converted 4/4 field goal attempts, but had one kick mishandled, due to a high snap from center Morgan Cox. Punter Sam Koch wasn’t much help, as he couldn’t get the ball down.

Opposite of Roethlisberger was Joe Flacco. It was Flacco’s 15th time playing against Roethlisberger, and he threw a single touchdown and a single interception. His touchdown went into the hands of Steve Smith Sr. while his interception went to Ryan Shazier. The Ravens’ other touchdown came from fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

After the game, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh commended the Steelers, specifically pin-pointing Roethlisberger and his mobility inside and outside of the pocket.

“There is nothing specific to point to,” Harbaugh said. “They made great throws. They made catches. Ben got out of the pocket and made a couple of plays. I think it was just play making. You have to come up with plays against him. We came up with interceptions early. That’s what you need to do. We were unable to do that in the fourth quarter. That was the difference in the game. They made more plays than we did. They made one more play than we did.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin praised his players for their work ethic on the field, and also their mentality.

“Man, it’s great to be AFC North Champs,” said Tomlin. “We tip our cap to the Ravens, they’re a tough, tough opponent, not only today, but always. Because our goals are very similar. I like the mentality that the guys showed. We knew it was going to be a tough football game. It always is.”

“We’ve been in games like this (during) this season, we’ve persevered in some and not in others” Tomlin continued. “But we’ve grown from all of our experiences. And it was just great to see the no-blink mentality, the competitive spirit, tonight. We helped one another. We were turning the ball over, the defense kept us in it there at the early portions of the second half. And then, we gave a drive up late and the offense responded. And that’s just good team ball.”

The Steelers will face the Cleveland Browns, at Heinz Field, on January 1. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. After that, it’s playoff football.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Follow me on Twitter, @TheeMcKriger, for all Steelers coverage.

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