Eric Weddle walked into the interview room in full uniform. Then the Baltimore Ravens well-bearded safety did a little dance and made a proclamation.
“I told you,” Weddle said. “These ain’t the same Ravens.”
After two years and two painful near misses, he might be right. Baltimore can win in Pittsburgh again, fueling confidence the Ravens can win anywhere.
The proof came in a cruelly efficient 26-14 victory over their AFC North rivals on Sunday night that looked an awful lot like how it used to look when Baltimore had it going earlier in head coach John Harbaugh’s tenure.
Joe Flacco threw for a 363 yards and a pair of scores. Justin Tucker kicked four second-half field goals. Baltimore’s defense did the rest, keeping Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown under wraps over the final 30 minutes as the Ravens (3-1) ended a three-game losing streak to the Steelers (1-2-1).
“You can’t become a true Raven until you win in Pittsburgh,” Weddle said. “I’ve officially become a Raven. What a great team win.”
Pittsburgh managed just 47 yards in the second half, sputtering in a place the Steelers have so often soared. Not this time. Not on a night they converted just 2 of 12 third downs and didn’t take a snap in Baltimore territory after halftime.
“I just didn’t make enough plays, point blank,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll take ownership on this game. Squarely on me.”
Two years ago, the Ravens fell on Brown’s “Immaculate Extension” on Christmas night. Last winter, Baltimore scored 38 at Heinz Field … and got beat on a field goal in the final minute. Those memories have been hard to shake.
“I think it was all in the back of our heads,” Weddle said. “The way we’ve lost here has not been fun.”
Maybe that’s what made this one a little sweeter than most. Even Harbaugh admitted this wasn’t just another opponent and this wasn’t just another victory, answering loudly “yes it does” when asked if there was a different vibe this time around.
The Steelers (1-2-1) came in having won nine straight Sunday night appearances. Baltimore brought Pittsburgh’s run to an abrupt end. Roethlisberger finished 27 of 47 for 274 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Steelers. Brown caught five passes for 62 yards, including his second touchdown pass in as many weeks.
Yet Pittsburgh couldn’t generate anything in the second half. The Steelers mustered three first downs after the break and there was no balance to be found. Pittsburgh ran the ball 11 times for 19 yards, the absence of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell — who has yet to sign his franchise tender — growing more acute by the week.
Harbaugh awarded one of the game balls to the defense. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale accepted after putting together a plan that Weddle said had the Ravens a step ahead.
It certainly looked that way. While Pittsburgh floundered, Flacco put together a string of clock-consuming possessions that ended with field goals by the ever reliable Tucker as Baltimore proved its strong start was no fluke.
Harbaugh called Flacco’s play “phenomenal.” Flacco isn’t quite ready to go that far. If anything, he was angry the two teams were tied at the half after Baltimore let an early 14-point lead get away.
“I really felt like we could have had 28, 30, 35 points out there at halftime,” Flacco said. “These guys and the way these games have been … especially the last couple years, you don’t want to leave points out there.”
The Steelers came in hoping the defense was slowly starting to find itself after forcing four turnovers last Monday night in Tampa during a victory Pittsburgh believed would resuscitate its season.
Flacco wasted little time helping Baltimore race to a 14-0 advantage. He found John Brown open on a 33-yard touchdown pass on Baltimore’s opening possession. Brown was double covered when Flacco let the ball go. By the time Brown chased it down in the end zone, both Steelers were two steps behind him and the Ravens were in front.
Three snaps later Baltimore had the ball back thanks to a strip by safety Tony Jefferson. It took the Ravens just four plays to go up two touchdowns, when Flacco flipped the ball in the flat to a wide-open Collins. The score marked the 13th straight red-zone trip by Baltimore that ended with a Ravens touchdown, the longest streak to start a season in NFL history.
Baltimore’s 14th red-zone trip ended up far differently and briefly swung momentum. The Ravens had the ball at the Pittsburgh 2 with a chance to move ahead three scores when Steelers free safety Sean Davis ripped the ball from Collins and Pittsburgh rookie strong safety Terrell Edmunds recovered.
Pittsburgh put together a lengthy drive that resulted in a Chris Boswell field goal to get within 14-6. The Steelers tied it with 2:50 left in the first half on a pretty 26-yard back-shoulder throw by Roethlisberger to Brown in the end zone and the ensuing 2-point conversion grab by Conner.
Baltimore, however, kept coming as Pittsburgh crumbled.
Ravens: Visit Cleveland next Sunday.
Steelers: Host Atlanta next Sunday. Pittsburgh has won its last two meetings against the Falcons.
This story has been corrected to update Baltimore’s next opponent as Cleveland, not Tennessee.
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