PITTSBURGH - A most fitting comeback for Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers quarterback connected on a 58-yard pass to rookie Antonio Brown with less than two minutes to go that ended any ideas the Ravens had of finally winning a playoff game against their division rivals.
Four plays later in the rough-and-tumble matchup, Rashard Mendenhall scored from 2 yards out with 1:33 left to lift the Steelers to a 31-24 victory over the error-prone Ravens in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game.
Just before his biggest pass of the season, Roethlisberger said he told offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, "Let's send him. Let's just chuck it deep. If they pick it, it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt. ... I just throw it as far as I can.' "
Roethlisberger took his shots early from the Ravens' defense, but threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns before his big pass on third-and-19.
"He may not be Brady or all those other guys, but when I see him in the huddle I know we've got a chance to win," said Hines Ward, who caught a TD pass. "He's a proven winner. And history shows he's a proven winner against Baltimore."
The third meeting this season between these AFC North rivals had the usual skirmishes, but also was filled with penalties and turnovers.
"It's Ben. You give this guy an opportunity to snap it; he's capable of producing plays," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "It's not always how you draw it up, but he has a no-blink mentality. He is a competitor and a winner. And those guys follow him."
While the Steelers trailed by two TDs at the half, it was the Ravens who fell apart in the in the second half as the team they love to beat most came back to knock them out of the postseason. The Steelers are 9-0 against division teams in the postseason.
"It was kind of amazing," Brown said. "It kind of stuck to my shoulder."
The loss will stick with the Ravens for seasons.
The Steelers were trailing 21-7 after turnovers created two Ravens touchdowns. But they came back with the help of three Baltimore turnovers in the third quarter. It was so bad, the Ravens' minus-4 yards in offense wasn't the worst of it; they ended with 28 yards in the second half.
"We knew we had to play great; we knew if we didn't play great we were going to lose this game," defensive end Brett Keisel said.
Baltimore was outgained 263-126 as Joe Flacco was 16 of 30 for 125 yards as the Ravens became the eighth team in NFL playoff history to fail to gain at least 100 yards in the first three quarters. All eight teams lost.
The Ravens' last chance to beat the Steelers — they haven't in three postseason tries — ended when T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped Flacco's fourth-down pass at the Steelers' 38 with 1:03 remaining.
"We knew it would be a close game," Houshmandzadeh said ."I didn't think it needed to be, but it was."
Failing to protect the ball cost the Ravens — even after they scored two touchdowns in less than 30 seconds in the first half. Defensive end Cory Redding returned a Roethlisberger fumble for a touchdown that both teams thought was an incompletion, but that wasn't nearly enough on a day when the Ravens offense did so little.
"What better way to put the Ravens out of the tournament," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "They keep asking for us and we keep putting them out of the tournament. They're going to be ticked about this for a long time."
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"You know what, our offense went in there (at halftime) and said, 'We played terrible, we gave them the ball in prime position too many times,' " Roethlisberger said. "We had to do something about it."
Mendenhall ran for 14 yards before Roethlisberger's 9-yard scoring pass to Heath Miller, who missed two games after sustaining a concussion on a hit by Jameel McClain during the Steelers' 13-10 win in Baltimore last month.
Later in the quarter, Flacco overthrew tight end Todd Heap, and Clark returned the interception 17 yards to the 25. Three plays later, Roethlisberger found ol' reliable Ward, absent in the offense most of the day, for an 8-yard touchdown pass and it was tied at 21.
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Steelers' Ward gets rough
Jan. 16, 2011: Hines Ward talks about the respect he has for Ed Reed and the personal foul penalty on him during the game against the Ravens.
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