Steelers run over the Ravens

Najee Harris rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, while Mason Rudolph connected with Diontae Johnson on a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter, as the Steelers edged the Ravens, 17-10, here at M&T Bank Stadium

Steelers run over the Ravens
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Steelers run over the Ravens

Najee Harris rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, while Mason Rudolph connected with Diontae Johnson on a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter, as the Steelers edged the Ravens, 17-10, here at M&T Bank Stadium.

It was a much-needed victory for the Steelers, who improved to 10-7 on the season and defeated the Ravens (13-4) for the seventh time in their past eight meetings, but it also was costly.Star outside linebacker T.J. Watt suffered a knee injury late in the third quarter while chasing Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley and did not return. Watt finished the game with seven tackles, three of which were for a loss, two sacks and two quarterback hits.

His availability for a potential playoff game is unknown at this point.

"T.J. is being evaluated for a knee injury," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "I'll have more information the next time we get together. Obviously, we're disappointed with that. But there are challenges in football. ... We'll deal with it, whatever it may be."

The challenge for the Steelers now and when Tomlin might next speak remains wide open. With the win, the Steelers now know exactly what they need to occur for them to reach the AFC playoffs. At 10-7, the Steelers would be in with a win by the Titans over the Jaguars at 1 p.m. Sunday, or a win by the Dolphins over the Bills in the Sunday night game. The Steelers also could make the playoffs in the unlikely event Saturday night's game between the Texans and Colts in Indianapolis ends in a tie.

"I'm just appreciative of the efforts of the guys," said Tomlin, whose team has now won its past four games here at M&T Bank Stadium. "This is a tough place to play. It was a tough environment today from a climate perspective. The ball security component was a challenge. But it was a challenge for both teams.

The Steelers knew going into the game none of that would matter unless they first took care of business themselves. And they did that much the same way they handled things against the Seattle Seahawks – with their running game.

With the weather a factor as heavy rains fell throughout the game, the team that ran the ball better figured to win this game.And the Steelers established early that they could run the ball – if they avoided mishandling it.

After the two teams traded punts on their opening possessions, the Steelers mounted a 12-play, 76-yard drive that saw them run the ball 10 times for 63 yards. Harris, who went over 1,000 yards for third time in his career in the game, capped the drive off with a 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead with 2:36 remaining in the first quarter.

"We kind of knew going in it was going to be that kind of game.

The Ravens fumbled on their next possession, as Mark Robinson stripped running back Melvin Gordon of the ball, with Larry Ogunjobi recovering at the Baltimore 45. But the Steelers gave it right back, as Jaylen Warren fumbled at the end of a short catch at the Baltimore 33 with the Ravens recovering.

The Steelers got a stop on that possession, but took over following a punt at their own 10. And after going three-and-out when Warren's third-and-3 run came up just short, they punted the ball back to Baltimore, with the Ravens taking over at their own 29.

Gus Edwards broke off a 29-yard and Huntley connected with Isaiah Likely for a 28-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7 just before the two-minute warning.The Steelers got the ball back at their own 40 after a heads up play by return man Godwin Igwebuike, who established himself out of bounds before touching the squibbed kickoff, but the Steelers were unable to take advantage of the field position before the half.

The Steelers drove to the Baltimore 33, but Rudolph was sacked on back-to-back plays by Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, with Rudolph fumbling and the Ravens recovering the second for a turnover just before the half.

The Steelers got another three-and-out to open the second half, and Harris broke off a 15-yard run on the first play from scrimmage after a punt to put the ball in Baltimore territory again. But the Steelers again moved backward from there, with Rudolph being unable to handle a shotgun snap on third down, and simply falling on the ball.

"It was probably the most challenging weather I've had to deal with," said Rudolph, who has now won three games in a row as the Steelers' starting quarterback.The game continued to be a battle of field position as the rain continued to fall and the playing surface got increasingly slick.

On the opening play of the fourth quarter, the Steelers faced third-and-4 at their own 29 having just lost Watt for the rest of the game with a knee injury.Rudolph took the snap, looked inside to tight end Pat Freiermuth at the sticks and instead went to Johnson on a slant route with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin in a trail position. Johnson caught the pass 15 yards downfield and raced untouched for a go-ahead touchdown.

"They took Pat away," said Rudolph. "They were doing a good job of dropping a defensive lineman or hugging him with a linebacker. Dionate was a big part of the read. They took Pat away and I went to him."The 71-yard touchdown was the longest of his career and the 6th play of 65 or more yards for the Steelers this season, marking the first time since 1988 they have done that.

Baltimore turned the ball over again in the fourth quarter, as Edwards lost a fumble that was recovered by MarKus Golden at the Baltimore 32.The Steelers rode Harris down inside the 5, eventually getting a 25-yard field goal from Chris Boswell to push their advantage to 17-7.

Baltimore added a Justin Tucker field goal to make it 17-10 with 16 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Steelers a pair of 17-10 wins over the Ravens this season.Rudolph completed 18 of 20 passes for 152 yards and the touchdown, posting a passer rating of 115.0. It was his third-straight game with a passer rating over 112. His 90 percent completion percentage is a new Steelers record, topping a 22 of 25 performance Ben Roethlisberger had in 2018 against Carolina.

Huntley, subbing for Lamar Jackson with the Ravens having clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, completed 15 of 28 passes for 146 yards.