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Jan 3, 2015 9:54 PM

Ravens lead Steelers 10-9 at halftime

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) Bernard Pierce's 5-yard touchdown run and Justin Tucker's 28-yard field goal gave the Baltimore Ravens a 10-9 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers at halftime of their AFC wild-card game Saturday night.

Scott Suisham kicked field goals of 45, 22 and 47 yards for the Steelers, who dominated time of possession and drove into Baltimore territory several times, but couldn't score a TD.

Pierce blasted into the end zone with 12:28 left in the second quarter for the Ravens, who came up with three sacks to slow Pittsburgh drives.

The bitter AFC North rivals, who have developed a healthy hatred for each other over the past 20 years, are meeting for the fourth time in the playoffs. The Steelers have won all three previous meetings, most recently on Jan. 15, 2011, in a division playoff matchup when they rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to win 31-24 and eventually advanced to the Super Bowl.

As is always the case when these teams clash, there were plenty of extra shoves and pushes following the whistle. Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds appeared to throw a punch during one skirmish, but was only penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, luckily escaping a possible ejection.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 18 of 24 passes for 183 yards in the first half. He twice drove the Steelers inside Baltimore's 35-yard line in the opening quarter, but he was sacked and Pittsburgh had to settle for Suisham's 45-yarder to take the early lead.

In the second quarter, Pittsburgh, helped by a 12-men-on-the-field penalty on fourth down against Baltimore, got inside the Ravens 10 but Roethlisberger was sacked by Brandon Williams to push the Steelers back.

Suisham's 47-yard kick with 37 seconds left brought Pittsburgh within 10-9.

The Steelers controlled the clock in the opening half, holding the ball for 20:55 to Baltimore's 9:05.

With All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell out with a knee injury, the Steelers were forced to rely more heavily on their passing game.

Pittsburgh dominated the opening 15 minutes, holding the ball for 12:03 to Baltimore's 2:57. But the Ravens defense came up with big plays when it needed as nose tackle Haloti Ngata and Elvis Dumervil sacked Roethlisberger.

Bell, the team's MVP after rushing for 1,361 yards, was out after hyperextending his right knee while taking a hit last week against Cincinnati. The loss of Bell he only gained 20 yards rushing in Pittsburgh's 43-23 win over Baltimore on Nov. 2 forced Roethlisberger to throw more.

In the first half, he passed Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw's franchise record for career postseason completions.

Ben Tate, who was signed earlier this week, started for Bell and picked up 17 yards on the Steelers' first series. Tate was released earlier this season by both Cleveland and Minnesota, but found himself in the postseason.

After winning the coin toss, the Steelers drove to Baltimore's 34 before they bogged down and had to punt. On their next possession, the Steelers got to the Ravens 20 but Roethlisberger threw an incompletion and Dri Archer was thrown for a 1-yard loss by Terrell Suggs, and Dumervil dropped Roethlisberger for a 6-yard loss.

The Ravens (10-6), appearing in the playoffs for sixth time in seven years under coach John Harbaugh. He was visited before the game by his brother, Jim, San Francisco's former coach who was hired by Michigan this week.

While the Steelers have to compensate without Bell, Baltimore's defense got a boost with the return of Ngata, who was activated Friday after serving a four-game league suspension for taking Adderall and violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. The Ravens went 3-1 without the 340-pound Ngata, but his presence and playoff experience are invaluable.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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