PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Tomlin spent a portion of the week showing the Pittsburgh Steelers clips of their longtime rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens.
It was filled with big hits, iconic plays and career-defining performances.
For the better part of three hours on Sunday, there was little to add to the reel.
Until, that is, the end, when a precocious play by a rookie whose father knows a thing or two about beating the Ravens led to a pair of throws that erased 56 minutes of offensive ineptitude, the last a 41-yard rainbow from Kenny Pickett to George Pickens with 1:17 to go that helped the Steelers rally to an improbable 17-10 victory.
“We found a way to win down the stretch,” Pickett said. “I think that’s all that matters. You know, we’re nowhere near as good as we need to be.”
Not even close. Yet it didn’t matter. Not with the Ravens (3-2) intent on giving the game away.
Baltimore turned it over three times, allowed a blocked punt for a safety that sparked Pittsburgh’s late surge and squandered a handful of other opportunities to bury the Steelers (3-2), the last coming when Lamar Jackson’s lob to the end zone to Zay Flowers with 4:10 to go ended up in the hands of Pittsburgh cornerback Joey Porter Jr., son of former Steeler linebacker and coach Joey Porter Sr.
Pickett, whose erratic play over the opening month of the season has offered little proof he’s ready to “kill it” in his first full year as the starter, gathered himself enough to drive the Steelers 80 yards in eight plays.
The last coming when Pickens beat veteran Ravens cornerback and fellow Hoover (Ala.) High alum Marlon Humphrey down the sideline to give Pittsburgh its first touchdown in nine quarters and help the Steelers put a one-sided blowout loss to Houston the previous week firmly in the rearview mirror.
“The resiliency from the game we just played was incredible,” said Pickens, who caught six passes for 130 yards.
Baltimore certainly helped. The Ravens dropped a handful of passes, including two in the end zone, and turned it over three times, including twice in the last five minutes to lose a game they seemingly had under control from the opening coin toss.
“They came out and played their game and ended up getting one,” Flowers said. “But we let them take that one.”
PICKETT’S … PROGRESS?
Pickett’s game-winning drive will help ease — momentarily anyway — some of the heat surrounding the offense and embattled coordinator Matt Canada.
While early game issues remain very much a problem, the Steelers did manage 201 yards and scored three times in the second half. Pickett completed 18 of 32 for 242 yards and the touchdown, struggling with his accuracy except when throwing the ball up to the 6-foot-4 Pickens.
While the chants of “Fire Canada” popped up at times, by the end they were replaced by a collective roar — and maybe an exhale or two in the coach’s box — as Pickett put together a game-winning drive in the final minutes for a second straight meeting with the Ravens.
“You get to this level, there’s so many outside factors that try to get into a team and try to pull a team apart, whether it’s media-related, fan-related, whatever it may be,” Pickett said. “You have to stay together because it’s the ultimate team game.”
JUMPING ON JACKSON
Jackson appeared on the verge of a breakout against the Steelers, a team he has struggled against since entering the league in 2018. He had a 26-yard run early and found open receivers while moving the ball with ease early.
It didn’t last. The Ravens mustered just 91 yards after halftime and allowed four sacks, including a strip-sack by Alex Highsmith with 1:02 remaining that led to Chris Boswell’s third field goal. Jackson finished 22 of 38 for 236 yards and the late interception and 45 yards rushing while falling to 2-4 in his career against Pittsburgh.
“We had (the Steelers) beat,” Jackson said. “(On) offense, we had to find our groove; we didn’t find it. The defense played a great game — kept stopping, kept giving us opportunities. We’ve just got to do what we do (and) finish drives.”
Baltimore was up 10-3 and driving late in the first half when it faced fourth-and-2 at the Pittsburgh 23 with the clock ticking.
Rather than have Justin Tucker come on for a very makeable field goal, Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum snapped the ball to a surprised Jackson, who rolled to his right and threw the ball away.
The original plan was to kick, but Linderbaum thought he saw one of the Steelers jump into the neutral zone and started the play expecting a penalty that would have resulted in Baltimore a first down.
Instead, the Ravens ended up with nothing.
“It was my fault not being aware and putting our team in a bad situation,” Linderbaum said.
Ravens: OL Patrick Mekhari left with a chest injury.
Ravens: Travel to London next week to face the Tennessee Titans at Tottenham Hotspur.
Steelers: Are off next week then head to Los Angeles to play the Rams on Oct. 22.
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