The Steelers (10-5-1), who will face the Browns in the first round of the playoffs next weekend, were continually helped by the Ravens in the first half.

Four penalties on third down - which included roughing the passer by Tony Weaver, illegal contact by Chris McAlister, pass interference by Gary Baxter and a face mask by Chad Williams - kept drives alive and staked Pittsburgh to a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

After Alan Ricard's 6-yard touchdown run closed the margin to 17-14, the Ravens tried to narrow the margin further in the final minute of the first half. But linebacker Jason Gildon tossed Ravens right tackle Ethan Brooks out of the way and sacked Blake, forcing a fumble at midfield.

With nine seconds left in the first half, quarterback Tommy Maddox hit receiver Plaxico Burress for a 21-yard pass and kicker Jeff Reed converted a 48-yard field goal to send the Steelers into halftime with a 20-14 lead.

"It wasn't what they were doing that hurt us," Baxter said. "It was us hurting ourselves with the penalties. I think some of them were legitimate, but I think a lot of them came from us being physical in this game."

The Ravens stormed back, scoring the first 17 points of the second half. Matt Stover made a 43-yard field goal, and the Ravens converted two Maddox interceptions into touchdowns.

Backup running back Chester Taylor's 20-yard touchdown catch put the Ravens ahead 31-20 with 12:57 remaining in the game. But he would factor heavily in giving the lead up.

After the Steelers cut the deficit to 31-26 on Amos Zereoue's 5-yard run and dive, Taylor tried to field the ensuing kickoff on the run. The ball bounced off his chest, and Pittsburgh recovered at the Ravens' 31.

"Stuff like that happens," Taylor said. "I had it in my hands, but I never had control of it, and it just came out."

On the ninth play of the slowly moving drive, Maddox had nine seconds to scan the field before finding a wide-open Antwaan Randle El for an 8-yard touchdown, moving Pittsburgh back ahead 34-31 with 2:29 left.

But the Ravens' attempted answer - which resulted in Blake's interception in the end zone - only led to more questions.

"Don't rip Jeff and don't rip [offensive coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh," Billick said. "That was my call. You rip me for taking a shot on a 7-8 football team instead of just ... saying, 'Whoa, baby I don't want to do this and let's kick a field goal and hope things work out.'

"If you're too cautious and too careful about everything you do, then you don't belong in this business. Yeah, I don't want him to throw an interception and he would probably like to have it back. But you take your shots and you take your chances. And you win when you win and you lose when you lose."

The Ravens' past two losses - which have come by a combined four points - ended their season but will serve as a starting point for next season.

"Sometimes you'd rather lose when you have no chance," said Heap, who outjumped the Steelers to make seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. "Losing this way takes your heart away from you."