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Harbaugh explains going for it on fourth down vs. Steelers

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he never really questioned the decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal late in the fourth quarter of the team's eventual 17-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

Sitting at Pittsburgh's 2-yard line with 2:44 remaining, the offense was denied an opportunity to overcome a 14-10 deficit when cornerback William Gay broke up quarterback Joe Flacco's pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the left rear corner of the end zone.

The Ravens bailed out offensive coordinator Cam Cameron 2:12 later when Flacco connected with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the game-winning, 18-yard touchdown, but Harbaugh said during his weekly session with the media Monday that he felt good about going for it on the previous possession instead of trying for a field goal.

"There's a thought, but we were on the 2-yard line, and I think we've got a chance to win the game right there," he said. "We have a good football team, and I'm pretty confident in our guys. We didn't get it done there, but we obviously got it done the next time. So it proved that we could score in those situations. But you've got to give your guys a chance to win the game. That's what we did."

Harbaugh also said that he agreed with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's decision to punt the football from the end zone rather than surrendering a safety, which would have left the Ravens needing only a field goal for the victory.

"I'm pretty sure Mike would tell you that's what he did, gave his defense a chance to win the game, and our offense came up with the plays," Harbaugh said. "That's what happens in football, and I'm proud of our guys for getting it done. There's no way I think he should have taken a safety there. So [if] he kicks it to us and we go down and kick the game-winning field goal, what would they be saying right now?"

After Sunday's win, Harbaugh awarded Cameron a game ball -- a move aimed at affirming the team's faith in Cameron.

"There were some calls that went back and forth," Harbaugh said. "He knows. The third-and-1 where we ran that waggle play, whoo, that was tough. We didn't get the ball in on fourth down, but the thing that I admire so much about Cam is the fact that he is unflappable. He has got ice water in his veins. He's always thinking, and he takes input. If I tell him to do something, he'll do it, but you try to stay away from that as a head coach because that's not the best way to allow your coordinator to do his best work. Cam Cameron is, I think, the best offensive play caller in the game. So for him, the way he kept his poise in that tough environment and came up with those calls down the stretch, I was proud of him, I was happy for him, and I know our players felt the same way."

Kruger battling strained knee

Defensive end Paul Kruger is the team's most serious injury concern as he is dealing with what Harbaugh called a strained left knee.

"He's probably the one guy that has the one injury issue," Harbaugh said. "He is getting an MRI today. So we'll just have to see how he comes through."

Harbaugh said he didn't have an update on the availability of defensive end Cory Redding, who missed Sunday's game because of aftereffects of a concussion. "I would assume that would be clearing up," Harbaugh said. "You hope, but with a concussion, you just have to wait and see."

Redding said Sunday that he agreed with the coaches' decision to sit out the game against Pittsburgh. "It's a long season, and I want a long life," he said. "I've got to consider my health. You've got to be smart with these things."

Offensive line answers questions

Pittsburgh, which entered Sunday tied with the Tennessee Titans for the fourth-most sacks in the league, finished with a season-low one sack against the Ravens. Flacco was hurried twice, but for the most part, he had time in the pocket.

Left tackle Michael Oher shut out Steelers Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison, and right tackle Marshal Yanda did the same to LaMarr Woodley. Harbaugh praised the game plan aimed at blunting Pittsburgh's tremendous pass rush.

"Pass protection is a group effort, and everybody on the offense is involved with it," he said. "But our offensive line was pretty good. That's probably an understatement. Our tackles did an excellent job against some good players. There wasn't a lot of chipping going on. It wasn't like we were giving them a whole bunch of help. They just held up out there very well, allowed us to get some receivers out, picked up the different pressures, slid the protection in different directions when we had to, did a great job of recognizing where they were coming from and when they were coming."

Multi-player rushing attack returns

At times because of injury and at times because of certain packages, Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain each took turns lining up at tailback Sunday.

McGahee led the way in rushing with 39 yards on 14 carries and a 9-yard rushing touchdown. Rice, who was limited by a bruised right knee suffered in Sept. 26's 24-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, carried the ball eight times for 20 yards, and McClain rushed twice for 7 yards.

McClain was the leading receiver out of the backfield, catching two passes for 13 yards. McGahee had two receptions for 2 yards, while Rice caught one ball for 9 yards.

Rice, who has gotten off to a slow start this season after finishing last year second to the Titans' Chris Johnson in total yards from scrimmage, said he didn't mind rotating with McGahee and McClain.

"I'm glad Willis and Le'Ron got a chance to play today because we 're just going to continue to grow as a team," Rice said. "We're looking for wins. Like I've said from the beginning, I'll take fewer stats any of the day of the week for a win."

Safety or no safety?

Harbaugh said his conversation with officials after the Steelers punted from the end zone in the fourth quarter centered on whether linebacker Keyaron Fox's holding penalty occurred in the end zone. Had that been the case, the call would have resulted in a safety.

"That's what I was asking," Harbaugh said. "Were they sure? Because with the ball being on the 2-, 2œ-yard line, you felt there was a chance that maybe it was in the end zone. Looking at the tape, it was borderline. I could see where they would call it either way."

In hindsight, Harbaugh said he wasn't sure whether the safety would have paved the way for the Ravens to leave with a win.

"I really don't know," he said. "At the time, I didn't know we were going to go down and score a touchdown. If I had known that, I would have said, 'No, you know what, we'll take the ball at the 40-yard line.' But if we hadn't scored the touchdown, I'd be sitting here, saying, 'Yeah, we should have gotten a safety on that. All we had to do was kick the field goal.'"

End zone

There are no lingering worries regarding the status of Rice (bruised right knee) and McGahee (hit in head). "I didn't think he really showed any signs of the knee issue," Harbaugh said of Rice. "He did a great job last week of getting himself ready to play, and he looked good on Sunday. Willis doesn't have a concussion. So he should be fine. Those guys are OK." … Harbaugh dismissed speculation that Sunday's outcome would have been markedly different had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger been available to the Steelers instead of serving the last part of his four-game suspension. "We were without a lot of players," he said. "That's just the way it works out in the National Football League, and that had nothing to do with us anyway. Whoever lines up against us every week is who we're going to play against. The next guy comes in and wins games for you or doesn't. I was pretty impressed with Charlie Batch though. I thought he played very well." … Offensive tackle Jared Gaither visited Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist in California, on Monday to get another opinion on a thoracic disk injury that had him sidelined practically since Aug. 5. "Jared's just getting out there today, so we look forward to hearing that report," Harbaugh said. "I'm excited to see how that goes." … Ray Lewis' interception not only cemented the Ravens victory, but it also ended the defense's interception drought. It marked the unit's first pick of the season after not recording one in the first three games of the season. This was Ravens' longest stretch without an interception to start a season in five years. "I just read his eyes," Lewis said of Steelers quarterback Batch. "I didn't think he was going to throw it late, but he did. I just broke on it and made a play." … Per wagers on Oregon's 52-31 rout of Stanford Saturday night, Harbaugh said he will have to wear some Ducks gear from rookie tight end Ed Dickson and pay out a few ducats to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. "I haven't got the jersey yet, and that's why I'm not wearing it right now," said Harbaugh, whose brother Jim is the Cardinal head coach. "I'm disappointed in Ed Dickson because I was supposed to have to wear it in the press conference. I have to admit that I didn't work real hard to find him today for that jersey. So I have a feeling on Wednesday, I'll be wearing that Oregon Ducks T-shirt around." … The Ravens, who wore less pink Sunday at Heinz Field than some other NFL teams, will be wearing more of the color Sunday when they welcome the Denver Broncos to M&T; Bank Stadium. The NFL is supporting breast cancer awareness month, and many teams around the league incorporated pink into their uniforms, with pink gloves, cleats, towels and hats. When asked why the Ravens did not have pink on Sunday, a team spokesman said, "We're doing it as a team this Sunday." The Ravens did sport pink ribbons on the back, left side of their helmets.

edward.lee@baltsun.com Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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