PITTSBURGH – Josh Scobee couldn’t. Twice.
Justin Tucker could. Twice.
The big-legged Baltimore kicker hit a 42-yard field goal to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final seconds of regulation and made a 52-yarder with 5:08 left in overtime to give the Ravens a 23-20 victory Thursday night.
Scobee had two chances to give the Steelers some cushion late in the fourth quarter only to pull both kicks wide left. The second miss gave the Ravens (1-3) enough time to put Scobee well within range to send the game to an extra period.
Pittsburgh then twice opted to go for it on fourth down in Baltimore territory in overtime rather than send Scobee out for a long attempt into the tricky wind at the open end of Heinz Field. Michael Vick, starting in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger, was stopped on fourth-and-2 at the 39 and later overthrew Antonio Brown on fourth-and-1 from the 33.
Neither Vick or Scobee would get a third shot. Joe Flacco led the Ravens to the 35 and Tucker’s winner was never in doubt.
Justin Forsett ran for 150 yards for the Ravens. Flacco threw a touchdown pass and did just enough late to help Baltimore end the worst start in franchise history.
Vick threw for 124 yards and a score and Le’Veon Bell ran for 129 yards and a touchdown by the Steelers (2-2) bumbled late.
For most of the night, it appeared Pittsburgh would survive with Roethlisberger relegated to a sweatsuit after spraining his left knee last week against St. Louis.
The Steelers sacked Flacco five times, forced a pair of turnovers and twice stopped the Ravens on fourth downs in the fourth quarter to seemingly seize control only to have Scobee let Baltimore back in it.
Scobee, acquired from Jacksonville in August after injuries to Shaun Suisham and Garrett Hartley, saw a 49-yard attempt sail wide with 2:24 to go. Pittsburgh forced a four-and-out only to watch Scobee flutter another one wide left with a minute left.
It gave Flacco just enough wiggle room to force overtime. Seven plays took the Ravens from the Baltimore 31 to the Pittsburgh 24, with Tucker drilling the 42-yarder to tie it with 3 seconds left.
Pittsburgh received an unexpected boost from cornerback Ross Cockrell, signed off the waiver wire at the end of the preseason. Cockrell picked off Flacco to end one Baltimore drive in the second quarter and alertly scooped up a Flacco fumble early in the third that set up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Vick to Darrius Heyward-Bey as the Steelers took a 20-7 lead.
The Ravens, desperately trying to avoid an 0-4 hole that would all but end their playoff hopes a quarter of the way into the season, responded emphatically if not always smartly.
Flacco found Kamar Aiken – who slipped behind Cockrell – for a 15-yard touchdown strike to cut it to 20-14 and the Ravens had a chance to draw within three late in the third quarter. Instead of a relatively short field goal, Baltimore tried a fake field goal and ended up losing 3 yards when backup tight end Nick Boyle was tripped up by Sean Spence shortly after catching a flip from holder Sam Koch.
Roethlisberger managed to make it into the field without crutches and even lobbed a few passes to teammates before the game. Yet with their $100 million franchise quarterback’s troublesome knee several weeks away from being ready to go, the Steelers’ chances of keeping pace in the crowded AFC North will rely heavily on the 35-year-old Vick.
Pittsburgh signed the four-time Pro Bowler in late August when longtime backup Bruce Gradkowski was lost for the season with a hand injury. Making only his fourth start in the last 23 months, Vick needed time to get going. His first pass sailed well over tight end Heath Miller’s head and he took a sack early in the second quarter that pushed the Steelers out of field goal range.
Once Vick’s legs – the ones that made him the NFL’s most unique talent in his prime – got going, so did Pittsburgh’s offense. Twice he darted for positive yardage on an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, a march that ended with Bell running to his left before cutting back to his right. Vick provided the block that sprung Bell to finish off an 11-yard zig-zag into the end zone that helped the Steelers take a 13-7 halftime lead.