Kicking with the 20-mph wind gusts, Matt Stover had already hit from 51 and 49 yards in the second quarter, extending his streak of consecutive points to 46. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens went into the wind.

"Matt felt it was outside his range," Billick said. "We have reached a pretty good comfort zone about communicating with one another about the distance, the wind, whatever."

Stover said he maintained a constant conversation with offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and special teams coach Russ Purnell about field conditions in the fourth quarter.

"The field conditions weren't very good, either," Stover said. "Everything had to be pretty much perfect in that situation, and they weren't. I said, `You've got to get me to the 30-, 32-yard line.' It was the 33. It didn't work out.

"If I missed it, I didn't want them to get the ball on the 41-, 42-yard line. As it ended up, they got the ball on the 10."

A defense that has allowed just four touchdowns in the past six games gave up one too many yesterday. That was a 45-yard pass from Kordell Stewart to Hines Ward that left cornerback Duane Starks clutching at another big play.

Stewart, 6-0 against the Ravens, ran a bootleg and Hines ran a streak pattern. Starks said Hines normally runs a deep out when Stewart runs a bootleg.

The Ravens didn't make the two big plays on offense that could have gotten them out of the drought, either. Dilfer simply mishandled Mitchell's snap after driving to the Pittsburgh 9 on his first series.

In the third quarter, he was intercepted by cornerback Dewayne Washington when he overthrew split end Qadry Ismail.

"I threw the ball a little late," Dilfer said. "Interceptions are part of the game. If you're afraid to throw the ball up in a position where a guy can make a play, then you've got no future as a quarterback."

In the fourth quarter, the Ravens lost rookie flanker Travis Taylor with a broken left collarbone, an injury suffered when he dropped a high pass. He's expected to miss four to six weeks.

Let the dogfight begin. Next week, the Ravens visit Cincinnati.

"You can't go out there and play not to lose," said safety Rod Woodson. "You've got to go out there and play to win. And I don't know that we've done that these last three weeks, to be honest."