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Steelers season all but over as Ravens lift off

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The Steelers are on life support. The Ravens have taken flight.

With an opportunity on Thursday night to knock off Baltimore and edge closer to a postseason berth, Pittsburgh did the opposite, falling 22-20 and allowing the Ravens to seize control of the AFC's sixth playoff seed.


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Flush with twists and turns, plenty of bad blood and an outcome that boiled down to one fateful play, it's clear we've just emerged from an instant AFC North classic.

After Jerricho Cotchery's clutch fourth-and-1 touchdown grab drew Pittsburgh within two points of Baltimore, the Steelers fell short on the two-point conversion as Ben Roethlisberger's pass to Emmanuel Sanders was ruled incomplete in the end zone.

That was the game -- and essentially the season -- for the Steelers (5-7), barring Pittsburgh running the table against the Dolphins, Bengals, Packers and Browns down the stretch.

That won't happen, but if we've learned anything from this year's version of the Black and Gold, it's that no team should be ruled out after an ugly start when the roster includes one of the game's grittiest passers. Ben Roethlisberger has carried this team, and the Steelers would be village idiots to allow him to go anywhere else in 2014.

Big Ben should be handed a fat new contract like Joe Flacco, who hushed his critics with a crisp evening through the air that saw the Ravens go for the throat with a menu of deep strikes to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

Flacco made key throws all over the field, but Baltimore's rediscovered success with the long ball over the past two weeks has thrust them back into the conversattion in the AFC.

This Ravens team has a long way to go before printing playoff tickets, but if they can repeat Thursday's performance, Baltimore looks like a good bet for January play.

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