PITTSBURGH -- In a season filled with embarrassing losses and unexpected slipups, the Ravens can now add bitter disappointment.
Playing their best game of the season, the Ravens still fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-19, last night at Heinz Field before a national television audience.
Jeff Reed's 37-yard field goal down the middle of the uprights with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter dashed the Ravens' chances of an unlikely win over their AFC North rival.
The game-winner came just after Matt Stover had kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens their first lead of the game.
The loss was the Ravens' seventh straight on the road and dropped them to 2-5. The Ravens are 3 1/2 games behind the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers (5-2) improved to 11-0 in Monday night home games under coach Bill Cowher.
The break of the game for the Ravens seemed to have come with 5:48 left in the game and the Steelers holding a 17-16 lead. Receiver Sean Morey inexplicably was behind the long snapper on a punt when the ball hit his legs. Punter Chris Gardocki eventually threw the ball out of bounds, giving the Ravens possession at the Pittsburgh 45-yard line.
Before getting hit, quarterback Anthony Wright threw a high pass that was pulled in by Derrick Mason. The 15-yard catch moved the Ravens to the Steelers' 30. But as they had done all game, the Ravens stalled and had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
The Ravens had driven inside the Pittsburgh 30 six times and came away with just one touchdown.
After Stover's fourth and final field goal, the Steelers got a series of big plays: a 14-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El, a 23-yarder to Quincy Morgan and an 11-yard run by Jerome Bettis. That set up the game-winning field goal.
The first quarter was full of surprises, with the Steelers coming out passing and the Ravens coming out scoring.
In a marathon opening drive, run-oriented Pittsburgh threw on more than half of its 15 plays as Roethlisberger completed seven of eight passes for 55 yards. He capped the 8-minute, 57-second drive with a 4-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller, who was wide-open in the end zone after safety Will Demps bit on the pump fake.
It represented the first points scored against the Ravens on any opening drive this season.
But trends didn't matter much last night because the Ravens' offense, which had been mired in a touchdown drought, responded throughout the first half.
After Jamal Lewis ran harder than he had all season - days removed from him admitting that he was concerned about getting injured - Wright took over by completing a 31-yard pass to Mason and converting a third-and-12 at the Steelers' 13-yard line for a touchdown.
He eluded the pass rush to find Chester Taylor, who caught the ball at the 10 and leaped high to break the plane of the goal line.
Taylor's first touchdown of the season tied the game at 7 with 1:54 left in the first quarter and ended the Ravens' 20-drive, seven-quarter touchdown drought. The Ravens had just one first-quarter touchdown in their first six games.
The jubilation was short-lived because, after Pittsburgh couldn't capitalize on a 59-yard kickoff return, Roethlisberger caught the Ravens off guard with a pooch punt that was downed at the Ravens' 1-yard line.
On the next play, Jamal Lewis made a terrific spin move to avoid getting tackled for a safety and plowed into cornerback Deshea Townsend, who pulled the ball out while falling backward.
Lewis' fumble was recovered by the Steelers at the Ravens' 12, which set up a 42-yard field goal by Reed. Lewis has the sixth-highest fumble rate among active running backs.
But the Ravens came back again on the strength of the passing game. Mason stretched to pull in a pass high and wide for a 16-yard catch on third-and-seven, and tight end Todd Heap caught a 22-yard pass on second-and-13 to put them at the Steelers' 4.
The Ravens, though, had to settle for a 22-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 because Wright threw incomplete over the middle on third down when Mason was open on the right side of the end zone. After the play, Mason wildly threw his hands up in the air and exchanged words with Wright.
Dale Carter forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, putting the momentum firmly on the Ravens' side. But after taking over at Steelers' 29, the Ravens could manage only 4 yards.
Stover's 43-yard field-goal attempt into the open end of Heinz Field hit the right upright, and the Ravens failed to take their first lead of the game. It ended Stover's streak of 10 straight field goals.
The Ravens had another chance late in the second quarter, converting a couple of third downs to move past midfield. But halftime ended in a 10-10 tie when Wright's Hail Mary pass was intercepted in the end zone.