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Steelers clinch North with comeback win over Ravens

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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Chris Boswell's 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds remaining clinched the AFC North title for the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2), their third in four years. Pittsburgh stormed back to beat the Baltimore Ravens (7-6), 39-38, on Sunday Night Football in Week 14:

1. When the Ravens went up 31-20 late in the third quarter following the final of four consecutive scoring drives, you could hear boos rain down from the disappointed Heinz Field faithful. What followed in the next quarter-plus, to turn around a lost game and reignite a disheartened franchise, was the stuff of Steel City legend.

From that point on, the Steelers, led by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, outscored Baltimore 19-7, scoring on their final four drives to shock their division rivals and lock up the AFC North. After pulling within two points, Pittsburgh got the ball back with a chance to win just ahead of the two-minute warning. Big Ben entrusted Jesse James (a career-best 10 receptions for 97 yards) on one third-down conversion and then connected with Antonio Brown deep down the right side for 34 yards on another, setting up Boswell for the game-winning kick. Baltimore had a chance to march down the field and win when they got the ball back with 42 seconds left, but a T.J. Watt strip sack of Joe Flacco on third-and-10 sealed the comeback victory.

2. Baltimore had not allowed a 300-yard passer all season coming into Sunday night. Roethlisberger promptly threw for 506 yards on the Ravens' secondary missing Jimmy Smith, the third-such time in his career he had eclipsed the half-millennium mark. With Le'Veon Bell a bit gimpy, the Steelers relied heavily on the pass. Big Ben attempted 66 passes, completing 44 of them and a quarter of those to Brown.

Man, what can't Brown do for you? The Steelers wideout continued to mount his MVP campaign, hauling in 11 catches for 213 yards. Brown is nearly unstoppable, as Pittsburgh's last four games, all in prime time, have confirmed. The receiver has set up three straight last-second wins with his sure hands and balletic sideline composure. With Carson Wentz going down with an injury and Russell Wilson throwing a trio of picks, Brown is now legitimately in the running for Most Valuable Player, alongside Tom Brady. His contributions, week in and week out, are undeniable and irreplaceable.

3. To no one's surprise, the Steelers dearly miss their fallen leader, Ryan Shazier; their emotional tributes to the hospitalized linebacker were ever present before and during Sunday night's game. But Pittsburgh misses Shazier on the field too. Without the Pro Bowl defender, the Steelers have surrendered more than 100 yards on the ground in consecutive games for the first time all year. Last week, it was Bengals back Gio Bernard. This time, Alex Collins and his brilliant burst. Collins ran decisively through the Shazier-less front, often hitting the second level with speed, and tallied four touches of at least 10 yards.

Collins' 120-yard night on the ground set up Baltimore' surprising success through the air. Joe Flacco averaged a near-season-high 7.7 yards per attempt, finding Mike Wallace and Chris Moore in the soft spots of Pittsburgh's suspect secondary. Steelers safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis were posterized repeatedly by one of the league's worst yards-per-play quarterbacks; Davis, who had an especially rough night, was penalized twice for 15 yards on Baltimore scoring drives in the second half.

4. Can you remember the last time the Steelers and Ravens, two typically defense-driven franchises, combined for over 70 points? Don't worry. I'll give you a second. You ready? October 5, 1997, when Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis led Pittsburgh to a 42-34 win over Vinny Testaverde's Ravens. Testaverde! Sunday night marked the highest-scoring game in rivalry history (77). This is a weird friggin' season.

5. With the win, the 11-2 Steelers reclaim AFC supremacy, at least for one night. If the New England Patriots win in Miami on Monday, the Steelers and Pats will meet in Week 15 in an AFC super-match extravaganza spectacular, the winner of which would almost certainly secure home-field advantage in the conference. For Baltimore, this gut-wrenching loss drops them back to the pack. At 7-6, the Ravens are now tied with the Buffalo Bills and the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. Thankfully for Baltimore, the combined record of their final three opponents is 8-41 and their final two games are at home. The Ravens are still favorites, if not locks to make the postseason.

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