PITTSBURGH - One of the great rivalries in the NFL really wasn't much of a competition when it came to the playoffs. Ravens-Steelers has all the passion and venom you could want in a long-standing feud, but the only thing missing for Baltimore was a postseason win in Pittsburgh.
The Ravens, who qualified for the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season, flashed the form they showed in winning the Super Bowl two years ago by beating the Steelers, 30-17, at Heinz Field to break a three-game playoff losing streak in Pittsburgh.
Baltimore moves on to face the Patriots in next Saturday's AFC divisional playoffs. The Ravens beat New England in Foxboro in the 2012 AFC Championship Game and then beat the 49ers in New Orleans in Super Bowl XLVII.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led the offense by going 18 of 29 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Flacco has now gone five straight playoff games without throwing an interception; he had 11 touchdowns in the Ravens' four playoff wins two years ago.
The outcome of Saturday night's game appeared all but secure for the Ravens after they moved ahead 20-9 with a 10-point third quarter, but Pittsburgh briefly made things interesting before Ben Roethlisberger (31-for-45 for 334 yards and a TD) threw two interceptions near the end. After producing a field goal on their opening drive of the second half to make it 13-9, the Ravens went up by 11 on Joe Flacco's 11-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with 4:13 to play in the third quarter.
Baltimore looked to increase the margin and perhaps put the game away on its next drive. Flacco's quarterback sneak at midfield kept the momentum going, but tailback Justin Forsett fumbled on the next play. The Steelers wasted no time going through the air, as Roethlisberger fired a deep pass for star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who scored an apparent touchdown. Replay determined that Brown was down at the 1, but the Steelers scored on Roethlisberger's five-yard scoring strike to Martavis Bryant to make it 20-15. The Steelers' two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Ravens upped the margin to 23-15 on Justin Tucker's 52-yard field goal with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter, but Roethlisberger threw an interception on his next drive. Under heavy pressure from the Ravens' defense, Roethlisberger's attempt to newly-signed running back Ben Tate was picked off by linebacker Terrell Suggs at the Steelers' 21. Tate was starting for injured Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell. On the next play, Flacco put the game away on a touchdown pass to seldom-used tight end Gillmore Crockett, who caught Flacco's pass in the right flat and raced into the end zone untouched to give Baltimore a 30-15 lead. The Steelers blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety to make it 30-17.
The Ravens went into halftime with a 10-9 lead in a game that was just as closely played as the one-point differential indicated.
The Steelers struck first with a 45-yard field goal, the first of three in the opening half by kicker Shaun Suisham, with 1:29 left in the first quarter. The Steelers had pinned Baltimore deep in its own end to force a punt from the Ravens' 11, and the Steelers got as far as the Baltimore 20 before Roethlisberger was sacked for a six-yard loss by Elvis Dumervil.
The Ravens answered on their next drive with an eight-play, 80-yard march that was powered by the run game and an 18-yard pass from Flacco to tight end Owen Daniels that got Baltimore into Steelers' territory. Forsett, who took over this year from suspended running back Ray Rice, ran twice for 21 yards to get to the Steelers' 5. Two plays later, Bernard Pierce sliced through the Steelers' defensive line for the touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
Pittsburgh continued to control the clock the rest of the half, but bogged down once they got within range of the end zone and could do no better than two more field goals by the end of the half. Suisham kicked field goals of 22 and 47 yards go make it a one-point game at intermission.
Roethlisberger was 18 of 24 for 183 yards in the half, and the Steelers held the ball for 20:55, compared to just 9:09 for the Ravens. Flacco was just 5 of 11 for 74 yards, while Forsett led the way on the ground with six carries for 41 yards.