"When I was in high school, I remember seeing him on TV and saw him doing amazing things," Mughelli said, "and he's still doing them."

McNair wasn't available for comment after the game. A team spokesman said he had to rush to the airport for a flight to Nashville, Tenn., to spend Christmas with his family.

The first misstep by the Ravens came on the series after their second touchdown, when a pass went off Clayton's hands and right to cornerback Deshea Townsend with 1:51 remaining in the first half.

McNair's first interception in six games - and 162 throws (the longest streak of his 12-year career) - gave Pittsburgh possession at the Ravens' 40, the first time the Steelers were in Ravens territory.

The Ravens held Pittsburgh short of the end zone when Bart Scott and McAlister tackled tight end Heath Miller at the 1-yard line. With the final seconds running down and the Steelers without any timeouts, the Ravens stopped the clock with 11 seconds left by calling a timeout.

On fourth-and-goal, Roethlisberger connected with Miller for a 1-yard touchdown, closing the deficit to 14-7.

Asked why the Ravens called the timeout, Billick said: "You'd have to ask the guy who called the timeout. It was one of our defensive players. Sorry, man, you can't lay that one on me."

Undeterred by the sloppy end to the first half, the Ravens came out of halftime with an eight-play, 69-yard drive. After converting a third-and-13 with an 18-yard pass to Todd Heap, McNair hit rookie Demetrius Williams in stride for a 25-yard touchdown.

It was the second three-touchdown game as a Raven for McNair, who completed 21 of 31 passes for 256 yards.

"How many times do we have to say it? He's a phenomenal athlete with a phenomenal cool," Billick said. "It's a gift to have him with us."

The Ravens were in a stingy mood defensively. After shutting out the Steelers last month, the Ravens allowed Pittsburgh into their territory only three times.

Steelers running back Willie Parker, the NFL's fifth-leading rusher, was limited to 29 yards - 4 fewer than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And Roethlisberger, who was 15-for-31 passing for 156 yards, was erratic most of the game despite having time to throw.

Some of the Ravens conjectured that sacking Roethlisberger nine times last month had a carry-over effect.

"He was probably thinking about those couple of hits from last time," said safety Ed Reed, who had a 32-yard fumble return and a 37-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. "I'm sure he had that in the back of his head that we were coming."

The Ravens' first season sweep of division rival Pittsburgh could lead to another milestone for the franchise.

Never higher than a fourth seed, the Ravens have positioned themselves for an extended home run in the playoffs. But after the way they have played on the road this season, the Ravens know they can win anywhere in the postseason.
Seeding scenarios

The Ravens could finish with the No. 1, 2 or 3 seed in the AFC:

• The Ravens will get the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye if they beat the Bills and the Chargers lose to the Cardinals.

• The Ravens will get the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye if they beat the Bills and the Chargers beat the Cardinals, or if they lose to the Bills and the Colts lose to the Dolphins.

• The Ravens will get the No. 3 seed if they lose to the Bills and the Colts beat the Dolphins.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com