BALTIMORE — Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell skipped most of training camp because of a contract dispute with the Steelers. That showed throughout the first few weeks, with Bell failing to record 100 rushing yards in the first three weeks of the season. On Sunday, Bell finally broke out, dashing for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 26-9 win over the Ravens.
For the second week in a row, the Ravens’ offense got shutout in the first half. In the opening 30 minutes, Baltimore punted four times, missed a field goal, and turned it over when Alex Collins fumbled on a run play. The ineptness of the Ravens’ offense led to a 19-0 Pittsburgh lead, and the Ravens never dug themselves out off the hole created in the first half.
The Steelers, now 3-1, take first place in the AFC North. The Ravens fall to 2-2 and occupy second place. The Bengals, now 1-3, man third place, and the Browns come in last at 0-4.
The Steelers got their 19 points on two touchdowns (with a failed two-point conversion) and two field goals. The Ravens began the game with the ball, but punted after six plays. Pittsburgh got the ball on their own 3-yard line and answered with a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 10:23 of clock. Bell was all over the place on this drive, rushing for 59 yards and catching two passes for 20 yards. Baltimore made a stop when it counted, and forced the Steelers to settle for a 30-yard Chris Boswell field goal for their first points of the afternoon.
On their second drive of the second quarter, the Steelers doubled their lead with a 49-yarder from Boswell. On the ensuing Baltimore drive, Collins fumbled the football and defensive end Cameron Heyward picked it up to give the Steelers the ball at the. Ravens’ 32-yard line. On a 2nd-and-15 play, Ben Roethlisberger linked with tight end Jesse James for 15 yards. Bell and rookie running back James Conner combined for 13 yards in two carries to get the ball on the goal line. From there, Bell ran it in, scoring the first touchdown of the game with 3:24 to go in the first half.
Baltimore’s offense, much maligned by injuries and poor play, responded with a three-and-out and gave the Steelers the ball right back. With 2:13 to go in the first half, and the ball on their own 30-yard line, the Steelers marched down the field. Roethlisberger found receiver Martavis Bryant twice for gains of 24 and 19 yards, setting Pittsburgh up on the Ravens’ 11-yard line. After an incomplete pass attempt to Bell, Big Ben connected with rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster for his lone touchdown pass on the afternoon. The Steelers tried to give themselves a three-touchdown lead with a two-point conversion attempt, but they did not come up with it.
Last week in London, Baltimore trailed 23-0 at halftime. The deficit was four points less than last week, but the Ravens needed a quick spark on offense to begin the second half. The Steelers collected the latter half kickoff, but Roethlisberger got intercepted on the third play of the opening drive. Receiver Antonio Brown could not complete the catch, and as he was tackled by cornerback Jimmy Smith, the ball popped into the air. Safety Eric Weddle capitalized, catching the football and taking it back to the end zone. However, after a review, the refs called it a fumble, but gave Baltimore the ball at Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line. The Ravens did not gain any yardage, and received their first points of the game off a 42-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.
On the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal. Baltimore responded with a three-play touchdown drive that featured a 50-yard run by Collins. Following an incomplete pass, Joe Flacco threw a 16-yard pass to Mike Wallace for a touchdown. The Ravens went for two points with a handoff to Terrance West. The attempt was initially ruled good, but after review, the ruling got changed to no good. Baltimore would not score for the remainder of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Flacco threw two bad interceptions, with the latter leading to Pittsburgh’s third touchdown of the game. That second interception occurred with 5:37 to go in the game, essentially ending it with Pittsburgh owning a 10-point lead. On the seven-play drive, Bell recorded a 21-yard run, and punched the ball in from one yard out. Boswell’s extra point put Pittsburgh up 26-9 with 2:26 remaining, a 17-point difference.
Flacco has now thrown an interception in 10 straight games for the Ravens, which leads the NFL. He went 31-for-49 on Sunday, throwing for 235 yards. Roethlisberger completed 18 passes on 30 attempts for 216 yards. Along with Bell’s 144 rushing yards, Collins led the Ravens with 82 yards on nine carries. Bryant led Pittsburgh receivers with 48 receiving yards. Bell & Brown caught four passes apiece, but did not match Bryant’s 48 yards. 42 reception yards for Bell gave him 186 total yards from scrimmage. Wallace led Baltimore receivers with 55 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
On defense, Ryan Shazier finished with 11 tackles (10 solo) and one tackle-for-loss. Pittsburgh’s defense combined for four sacks – Heyward with two, Mike Hilton with one, and Bud Dupree & Stephon Tuitt combining for the last one. Hilton and Shazier registered interceptions.
Pittsburgh out-gained Baltimore 381-288 on offense. The Steelers converted 22 first downs, and the Ravens had 18. The Steelers ran 73 plays on offense, and the Ravens ran 68. In the penalties department, eight penalties for 60 yards got called against Pittsburgh, and six penalties for 55 yards were called against Baltimore. The Steelers won the time-of-possession battle, 35:29-24:31.
Coming up next week, both teams will play on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Steelers tangle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, now 2-2, at 1:00 EST from Heinz Field. The Ravens head out west to face the Oakland Raiders, which begins at 4:05 pm EST.
Image Credit: TribLIVE