Steelers win AFC North after rallying by Ravens 31-27

Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on a 4-yard TD with 9 seconds remaining

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) reaches the ball across the goal line for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016. The Steelers won 31-27. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) reaches the ball across the goal line for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016. The Steelers won 31-27. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Steelers rode Ben Roethlisberger’s right arm and Antonio Brown’s left arm to the AFC North title.

Roethlisberger shook off a pair of interceptions to throw two late touchdowns, including a 4-yard strike to Brown with 9 seconds remaining to lift the Steelers to a 31-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. Brown caught Roethlisberger’s pass just short of the goal line and stretched the ball into the end zone with his left hand to cap a wild fourth quarter and give Pittsburgh (10-5) its second division title in three years.

The Ravens took the lead on Kyle Juszczyk’s 10-yard burst up the middle with 1:18 remaining. But Roethlisberger calmly led the Steelers 75 yards in 10 plays, the last 4 coming as Brown fought through a pair of tacklers to assure the Steelers of a third straight playoff berth.

“Right before we went out,” Brown said, “we said, ‘Let’s get the game-winning touchdown and get out of here.’ ”

The Ravens (8-7) were officially eliminated when Joe Flacco’s pass near midfield was intercepted on the final play.

Kansas City secured a playoff berth with the Baltimore loss.

The Steelers have won six straight and ended a four-game losing streak to Baltimore.

Roethlisberger finished with 279 yards passing and three touchdowns to overcome two third-quarter interceptions. Those picks allowed the Ravens to take a 20-10 lead on Justin Tucker’s fourth field goal with 14:21 to play.

Brown caught 10 passes for 96 yards to join Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as the only players with four straight seasons with at least 100 receptions.

Le’Veon Bell ran for 122 yards and a 7-yard touchdown that kick-started Pittsburgh’s rally during a fourth quarter that featured 31 combined points and three lead changes in the final 7:16.

Flacco passed for 262 yards, including a pretty 18-yard dart to Steve Smith that put Baltimore up 14-10 early in the third quarter. Smith ended up with seven receptions for 79 yards, but the Ravens crumbled late. Their defense put up little resistance as Roethlisberger clinically got his team in position to get back to the playoffs.

It’s a destination that seemed to be disappearing right in front of Pittsburgh’s eyes in the third quarter. Roethlisberger threw a pair of interceptions deep in Pittsburgh territory – both poorly thrown balls to heavily covered targets – that helped the Ravens take control.

“I kind of dug ourselves a hole,” Roethlisberger said. “I take all that blame. We never quit and never gave up. Guys fought back.”

Indeed, with a season once filled with such promise slipping away, the Steelers turned to their three big stars.

BIG ROLE FOR AYERS

Obscure rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers drew a pass interference play that set up Bell’s score.

UP NEXT

Ravens: Baltimore is just 2-6 in Cincinnati under John Harbaugh.

Steelers: Pittsburgh hasn’t lost at home to Cleveland since 2003.

___

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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