By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun –
PITTSBURGH — There was no Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward or Ray Lewis, but as both teams predicted all week, it turned out to be more of the same with the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
In a tense game dominated by both defenses, Ravens return man Jacoby Jones made the game’s decisive play with a 63-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter. The Ravens defense did the rest in a 13-10 victory over the Byron Leftwich-led Steelers in front of an announced 63,446.
By virtue of their third straight regular-season victory over the Steelers at Heinz Field, the Ravens improved to 8-2 on the season and now have a two-game lead for first place in the AFC North. The Steelers fell to 6-4. The two teams will play again in two weeks but up next for the Ravens is a West Coast trip to face the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon.
After allowing a touchdown in the opening 43 seconds of the game on a 31-yard scramble by Leftwich, the Ravens defense wouldn’t allow the Steelers in the end zone again. Trailing 13-10, the Steelers got the ball back at their 16 with 1:05 to play and no timeouts, but they did nothing with it as the Ravens poured onto the field to celebrate their latest victory over their division rival.
Leftwich committed his first turnover on the Steelers’ first drive of the third quarter. After a 37-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders put the ball into Ravens territory, Leftwich tried to force another ball to Sanders but cornerback Corey Graham, getting the start with Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith sidelined, stepped in front of it at the 18. He returned it all the way to the Ravens’ 38.
The Ravens converted the turnover into points. A 23-yard Flacco completion to Anquan Boldin and a key 8-yard third-down catch by Ray Rice put Justin Tucker in position to hit a 39-yard field goal. That gave the Ravens a 13-7 lead with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
But the Steelers, whose offense had done nothing since their opening drive, answered immediately. With Pittsburgh getting the ball at its 16, Leftwich hit running back Jonathan Dwyer for a 15-yard gain. The Steelers then started to get their running game going with Dwyer running for gains of seven and 11 yards.
A 23-yard Leftwich completion to Sanders, coupled by an unnecessary roughness penalty on Ed Reed, who was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit, put the ball down to the Ravens’ 12. After an 8-yard run by Dwyer advanced the ball to the 4, Leftwich threw back-to-back incompletions to the right corner of the end zone.
Shaun Suishamthen hit a 22-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive and cut the Ravens’ lead to 13-10 with 37 seconds to play in the third quarter.
On their next two drives, both in the fourth quarter, the Steelers advanced into Ravens territory, but a sack by Haloti Ngata forced a punt on one drive and a sack by reserve safety James Ihedigbo forced a punt on the next.