PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham stood in a euphoric locker room, game ball tucked firmly under his left arm and his team’s once calamitous season inching its way back toward respectability.
Not a bad day for a guy who insists he’s just doing his job.
Suisham’s 42-yard field goal, his fourth of the day, lifted Steelers to a 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Seemingly out of it after stumbling through a winless September, Pittsburgh (2-4) has won two straight.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Suisham said. “Hopefully we can start stacking wins here.”
Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 of 23 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. He also hit Antonio Brown twice on Pittsburgh’s final drive, putting Suisham well within range to win it.
“We count on him to make it every time,” Roethlisberger said.
Why wouldn’t he? Suisham is a perfect 14 of 14 this season. He drilled four field goals in last week’s victory over the New York Jets that snapped the Steelers out of their worst start in 45 years. He nailed four more on a day one of the NFL’s more intense rivalries played like a slightly watered down version of its former self.
The bold-faced names that defined the series — Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and James Harrison among them — are either retired or playing elsewhere. The animosity was dialed down a bit, perhaps because there was something more important than simple AFC North supremacy.
Both teams entered the day chasing first-place Cincinnati. While Pittsburgh’s win only widened the gap between the Bengals (5-2) and the rest of the division, the Steelers remain confident they’re on their way back from the brink.
“At 0-4, a lot of people counted us out and we still have an opportunity to turn this thing around,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “Right now we just have to keep marching in the right direction.”
Joe Flacco passed for 215 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore (3-4) but couldn’t stop the defending Super Bowl champions from losing for the third time in their last four games.
“We can’t kid ourselves anymore, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We’re used to things going a little different for us, but that being said we’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly and play football.”
The Ravens trailed all day but finally ran the Steelers down when Flacco guided a 16-play, 73-yard drive that ended when the quarterback hit Dallas Clark in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 16 with 1:58 to go.
The Steelers nearly went back in front immediately when Emmanuel Sanders picked up the ensuing kickoff in the back of the end zone and raced down the right sideline all the way to the end zone. Officials, however, ruled he stepped out at the Pittsburgh 37.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers 39 yards in seven plays, finding Brown for gains of 11 and 13 yards. Pittsburgh then drained the clock until there were just 3 seconds remaining. Rather than call a timeout to force Suisham to think about it, the Ravens let the kicker go through his normal routine. The ball sailed right down the middle for Suisham’s fourth game-winning boot in the last two years.
“I didn’t feel like it would be a smart thing to do because the field was a little ruddy there and it gave them a little more time to prepare,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.
Instead, the Ravens head into a bye week figuring out how to come through when things get tight. Their last three losses have come by a combined eight points.
“I still have a lot of confidence,” Flacco said. “It’s going to be a dog fight just like it always is in this division … We still have a lot of games to go.”
So do the Steelers, who seem to be finding themselves on offense. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell ran for a season-high 93 yards on 19 carries as the league’s 31st-ranked rushing attack piled up 141 yards on the ground, Pittsburgh’s highest total in nearly a year.
Having a wide-open playbook certainly helped. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley found a variety of ways to get the ball in Bell’s hands, even lining him up in the wildcat formation with Roethlisberger split out as a wide receiver.
“I told the (defensive back) I was going deep next time,” Roethlisberger joked.
Bell churned for 61 yards in the first half alone as the Steelers build a 10-6 lead. Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 3-yard touchdown pass, though Miller handed the Ravens a field goal late in the half with a rare fumble near midfield.
NOTES: Pittsburgh lost RT Marcus Gilbert with a quadriceps injury in the first quarter … The Ravens called an onside kick in the third quarter trailing 13-9 but were called for two penalties on the play. The Steelers kicked a field goal to push their lead to 16-9 … The comeback was the 28th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter in Roethlisberger’s career.