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Steelers get a scare in win over Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally won the kind of close game they've been losing at home all season. The problem was it wasn't supposed to be nearly this difficult, not against a depleted Ravens team whose season already seems to be fading away.

Jeff Reed kicked a 37-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining after Ben Roethlisberger opened each half with touchdown passes to rookie tight end Heath Miller, and the Steelers held off the injury-weakened Ravens 20-19 to tighten up the AFC North race. 

But only with a sigh of relief did Pittsburgh (5-2) stay within a half-game of division leader Cincinnati. The Ravens (2-5) were without the last two NFL Defensive Players of the Year, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and, seemingly, much chance of ending what now is a seven-game road losing streak, but nearly pulled out a game it seemed only they thought they had a chance to win.

"But our players know," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "This is still Baltimore. They still have some good players, and their coach challenged them and they responded."

The Ravens, two-touchdown underdogs, took a 19-17 lead after an uncharacteristic botched play by Pittsburgh's special teams -- a failed punt attempt in which rookie Greg Warren 's snap to Chris Gardocki deflected off upback Sean Morey and resulted in Gardocki's incomplete pass.

"It's a first," Cowher said, saying Warren mistakenly snapped the ball early. "But we were holding them to field goals rather than touchdowns and got a chance to win it in the end."

Thanks to the mix-up, the Ravens got the ball at the Steelers 45 with 5 minutes to play and a chance to steal a victory in a stadium where they haven't won since 2001. Matt Stover followed with his fourth field goal, a 47-yarder with 3:21 remaining that gave the Ravens their first lead -- and, to the crowd of 64,178, brought back unpleasant memories of a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville and a last-play 23-20 loss to New England at Heinz Field earlier this season.

"I looked at Ben and said, 'This is what it's all about,"' Cowher said. "He kind of smiled and has a look of confidence about him."

Ben Roethlisberger tied a career-high with 30 attempts and completed two for scores.  
Ben Roethlisberger tied a career-high with 30 attempts and completed two for scores.    
Roethlisberger (18 of 30, 177 yards, one interception) then hit Antwaan Randle Elfor 14 yards and Quincy Morgan for 23 yards, and Jerome Bettis had an 11-yard run on the 60-yard drive that led to Reed's go-ahead field goal.

Baltimore had one more chance to win it, but Anthony Wright 's fourth-and-6 pass from his own 47 fell at Chester Taylor 's feet and the Steelers ran out the clock. Wright was 25 of 44 for 252 yards and two interceptions as running back Jamal Lewis, a 2,000-yard back two years ago, was held below 100 yards for the seventh consecutive game.

"I defy anybody to show me one frame of film that doesn't show us playing as hard as we could," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "This group of guys had a lot of circumstances working against them, but they almost beat one of the best teams in the league."

The Steelers are 11-0 in Monday night home games under Cowher and Roethlisberger, who was hit on the right knee during the first half and seemed to be bothered the rest of the game, is 18-1 as a regular-season starter.

"I caught a cleat," Roethlisberger said. "They're going to take a look at it tomorrow and, hopefully, it will be nothing."

Baltimore seemed to be in trouble at the start as the Steelers drove 79 yards on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead on Miller's 4-yard touchdown catch. Baltimore, winless on the road for 350 days, couldn't have liked this, down 7-0 away from home against their biggest rivals before an offense that hadn't scored a touchdown in seven quarters got the ball.

But a pregame pep talk from owner Steve Bisciotti was credited by the players as helping them think they could win.

"I think that got us all pumped up," linebacker Bart Scott said. "He wanted to win as much as anybody in the locker room. We were missing some pretty big guys, but I think we did a darned good job against them."

The Ravens matched the Steelers by driving 73 yards to tie it on Wright's 13-yard TD swing pass to Taylor on a third-and-12 play.

Reed (42 yards) and Stover (22 yards) later traded field goals that followed turnovers to tie it at 10 at the half. Lewis fumbled after Roethlisberger pinned the Ravens back at their 1 with a quick kick -- a play the Steelers have revived from the 1920s -- but Roethlisberger later was intercepted for only the second time this season, by Adalius Thomas.

The Ravens could have had a touchdown rather than the field goal, but Wright didn't see a wide-open Derrick Mason in the end zone on a third-and-4 play. Mason waved his arms at the quarterback in frustration, angering Wright, and the two exchanged words as they left the field ahead of Stover's field goal.

Stover later missed a 43-yarder off the right upright that would have put Baltimore up. The Steelers then came out and started the second half exactly the way they did the first, with Roethlisberger going 6 of 6 on a 64-yard drive that again ended with Miller's 8-yard TD catch. Miller, the Steelers' first round draft pick, has six touchdowns in his first seven NFL games.

Stover later made a 43-yarder, then hit a 49-yarder -- the longest at Heinz Field -- midway through the fourth quarter to get the Ravens to 17-16.

"It's not the way we wanted to play this game, but when you're playing a divisional opponent and a tough opponent, you take what you can get," Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said.

Notes: A week after rushing for 221 yards against Cincinnati, the Steelers were held to 101 yards, with Willie Parker getting 63 on 14 carries. ... Pittsburgh hasn't lost a Monday night home game since 1991. ... Stover went 4-for-5 in a stadium where visiting kickers had made only 67 percent of their attempts. ... Baltimore had scored only 22 points in its previous two games. ... The Steelers had dropped three of four at home dating to the AFC title game in January. ... Lewis (61 yards) has been held below 70 yards in five of seven games against Pittsburgh.

SCORING SUMMARY
Final  1   2   3   4   OT   T 
Baltimore (2-5) 7 3 0 9   19
Pittsburgh (5-2) 7 3 7 3   20

NFL News

Giants owner Wellington Mara dead at 89

Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, one of the NFL's most influential owners for more than a half century and the last of the league's founding generation, died Oct. 25. He was 89. 

Mara, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, died of cancer at his home in Rye, the team said.

"Wellington Mara is the face of not only the New York Giants but the NFL," said Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey. "He's a pioneer and the guy that everybody looks up to."

Mara's influence went far beyond the Giants. He clearly was one of the most important figures in NFL history.

Perhaps his greatest contribution came in the early 1960s. He and brother Jack, owners of the biggest team in the biggest market, agreed to share television revenue on a leaguewide basis, dividing the huge amounts of money available in cities like New York with smaller markets from Pittsburgh to Green Bay.

Part of that agreement meant that the Giants ceded the right to sell their own games to television for a leaguewide contract, in those days with CBS. That concept of revenue sharing allowed the NFL to thrive and remains in place today.

He also served during the 1970s as chairman of the NFL's Management Council, which negotiated labor contracts, and as a member of the competition committee.

"When Well Mara stood to speak at a league meeting, the room would become silent with anticipation because all of us knew we were going to hear profound insights born of eight decades of league experience," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

Mara became a Giants' ballboy at age 9 in October 1925 after his father, Timothy J. Mara, bought the team. He stayed fully involved in its operation for almost 80 years, except for three years while in the Navy during World War II. Until he became ill last spring, he attended most practices and every game.

In 1930, at 14, his father made him co-owner with older brother Jack, and he ran the club until several years ago, when son John took over day-to-day operations.

But from 1979 on, while the team was run by general managers George Young and Ernie Accorsi, Mara had final say on football decisions. He decided to fire coach Jim Fassel after the 2003 season and replace him with Tom Coughlin.

Wellington Mara began working for his father's franchise when he was 9 years old.  
Wellington Mara began working for his father's franchise when he was 9 years old.    
When former players became ill, Mara would find them doctors, pay their medical expenses and arrange help for their families. Many old-timers were on the payroll as scouts or advisers.

Mara always considered himself a football man first, running the on-field operations through the 1950s until 1979 while Jack and then Jack's son Tim ran the business end. The team was successful during the '50s and early '60s with such stars as Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff and Roosevelt Brown and a coaching staff that included Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi as assistants.

But after losing to Chicago in the 1963 NFL championship game, the Giants began a long slide, failing to make the playoffs again until 1981 as Wellington and Tim, by then the co-owner, feuded.

In 1979, on the commissioner's recommendation, the Maras agreed to hire Young as general manager and the team again became a power.

It won Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990 with Bill Parcells coaching. Parcells left after that season and the Giants slipped into the middle of the pack.

They made the Super Bowl again after the 2000 season, losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

In 1991, Tim Mara and his family sold their share of the team to Robert Tisch. Tisch and Mara were officially co-owners and Tisch ran much of the business affairs. But it was always clear it was Wellington's team.

Mara is survived by wife Ann, 11 children and 40 grandchildren.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.

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