Stewart threw for a career-high 333 yards and two touchdowns as
the Steelers clinched the AFC Central title Sunday night,
dominating the clock and the Baltimore Ravens in a 26-21 victory.
It was the sixth straight win for the Steelers, who have not
lost since Brown missed four field goal attempts in a 13-10 defeat
against the Ravens last month.
Brown went 2-for-3 this time, but Stewart led two touchdown
drives in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a runaway
and assure the Steelers their first trip to the playoffs since
Stewart went 20-for-31 as Pittsburgh (11-2), despite playing
without leading rusher Jerome Bettis, held the ball more than 22
minutes more than the Ravens (8-5).
"That's the Pittsburgh Steeler philosophy: Keep the ball,"
Pittsburgh center Jeff Hartings said. "It helps our defense and
makes the other team get impatient sometimes."
Burress, who was in the middle of a war of words between the
teams leading up to the game, finished with eight catches for a
career-high 164 yards. Shaw had two receptions for 100 yards; his
90-yarder was tied for the longest in franchise history.
Pittsburgh has won five straight in Baltimore and is 4-0 at
PSINet Stadium. The Steelers ran 73 plays compared to 53 for the
Ravens and had their offense on the field for 41 minutes, five
"I think I had enough time to eat a couple of subs on the
sideline," Pittsburgh safety Lee Flowers said.
"They were able to control the ball," Baltimore defensive end
Rob Burnett said. "They're the AFC Central Division champions, and
they're very deserving when you consider the way they carried
themselves this year."
Baltimore quarterback Elvis Grbac, who missed the first game
between the teams, was 20-for-38 for 159 yards and two scores. He
had only nine completions for 68 yards through three quarters.
If the Ravens are to return to the playoffs, they'll have to do
it as a wild card -- the same route they took last year in winning
the Super Bowl.
"We're going to have to win two of the next three -- that's my
guess -- to get to the playoffs," Baltimore coach Brian Billick
said. "We're capable of winning the next three games."
Matt Stover's NFL record of kicking a field goal in 38 straight
games came to an end.
The Ravens closed to 19-14 on a 14-yard TD pass from Grbac to
Qadry Ismail with 6:36 left, but Stewart completed a 38-yarder to
Burress to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Dan Kreider with 3:05
Baltimore scored with 1:14 left on a 5-yard pass from Grbac to
Brandon Stokley, but the Steelers recovered the onside kick and ran
out the clock.
"Just a phenomenal, great performance, worthy of the Central
Division champions," Billick said.
Stewart came up big on a night when the Steelers were without
Bettis, who missed a second straight game with a groin injury. Amos
Zereoue gained 73 yards on 16 carries and Stewart added 55 yards on
The Steelers took a 13-7 halftime lead, thanks to Burress'
leaping catch over Chris McAlister in the end zone with 1:52 left.
Days earlier, Burress said Pittsburgh "beat up" the Ravens in
their last meeting. Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharpe responded by
calling the receiver "Plexiglas."
Burress had the last laugh.
"All that stuff showed me they weren't focused on the game --
all that disrespecting players and calling us names," Burress
Pittsburgh moved 73 yards on its opening possession, holding the
ball for more than eight minutes, before Brown kicked a 22-yard
Grbac then directed the Ravens on a 56-yard march, completing
four of five passes before running in from the 2 for a 7-3 lead.
The Steelers responded with a 10-play drive that ended with a
33-yard field goal by Brown. Stover then came up short on a 48-yard
field goal try.
Ravens DT Sam Adams was inactive. He underwent arthroscopic
knee surgery on 11/28. ... The Steelers' six-game winning streak is
their longest since 1995. ... Baltimore CB James Trapp left the
game in the second quarter with a groin injury. ... The Steelers
under Bill Cowher are 73-8 overall and 9-1 this year when leading
at the half.
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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