A whole new ballgame

BALTIMORE _ It was different this time, for a variety of reasons.

One of the biggest was the presence of one of the smallest Steelers.

"I know I play bigger than my looks," 5-foot-9, 184-pound nickel cornerback Mike Hilton maintained after helping the Steelers outlast the Ravens, 23-16, on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. "I just try to go out there and make plays."

Hilton missed the Ravens' 26-14 victory over the Steelers on Sept. 30 at Heinz Field due to an injury.

But he made a couple of plays in the rematch that might have prevented Baltimore touchdowns.

The first of those absolutely did, a pass defensed on a lob into the end zone from quarterback Joe Flacco to tight end Mark Andrews on first-and-goal from the Steelers' 10-yard line in the first quarter.

"We were in man (-to-man) coverage," Hilton explained. "I've seen that play multiple times on film. He's a big 6-5, 6-6 guy, they want to give him a jump ball.

"I was expecting it and I made a play on it."

The second was a tackle in space for a loss of 1 yard on a keeper by quarterback Lamar Jackson on third-and-2 from the Steelers' 4.

"Just me making a play, man, trying to do something to help the team win," Hilton said.

The Ravens kicked field goals on both possessions.

Baltimore went 1-for-4 turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns.

MOVE THOSE CHAINS: The Steelers went 10-for-16 converting third downs (63 percent) and 1-for-1 on fourth down (100 percent).

They had managed just two third-down conversions (2-for-12, 17 percent) in their loss to the Ravens in September.

Three of the Steelers' third-down conversions occurred on a 15-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown to open the third quarter. The march took 8:14 to complete, which approximated the 8:29 they'd had the ball for in the entire second half the first time out against Baltimore.

"That was pretty awesome, taking up that time, converting a lot of big third downs," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "They weren't just third-and1s, third-and-2s. They were third-and-medium-type plays (third-and-6, third-and-7 and third-and-6).

"Once again, it starts up front. When (the offensive linemen) play the way they played today and they've been playing, I'd like to think the sky's the limit. The O-line's playing spectacular."

NEXT QUARTERBACK UP: Roethlisberger left the game for a play in the fourth quarter after having the wind knocked out of him following a tackle by linebacker Za'Darius Smith.

Josh Dobbs came on for a second-and-20 snap from the Steelers 5 and hit wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for 22 yards and a first down.

It was Dobbs' first pass in the NFL.

"It was a play we practice like a ton of times," Dobbs said. "I was pretty comfortable with it."

From an adjacent locker, Roethlisberger joked that Dobbs changed the play at the line of scrimmage.

"It was a run and he checked to a pass," Roethlisberger said.

The drive Dobbs helped extend resulted in a field goal and a 23-13 Steelers' lead with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter.

"We make it a two-possession game so it was a crucial time for us," Dobbs said.

CARRYING THE LOAD: Running back James Conner rushed nine times for 19 yards the first time.

He rumbled for 8 yards on his first attempt and 25 on his second along the way to a 24-carry, 107-yard effort in the rematch.

"It's James being better," offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva said. "It's James showing no challenge is too big for him, the No. 1 defense, whatever it may be. When you're so close to him and you see him lower his shoulders and you see him get a couple yards it's extremely motivating.

"I gotta give him a lotta credit for his performance."

Added Conner: "Each game is different. To me, each game is the biggest game because it's the next one."

HE SAID IT: "It's a big feat but the bus doesn't stop here. We still have work to do. We knew we needed to do it. We kind of put ourselves in a situation where these were critical moments. I'm glad we got the win." _ Defensive end Cam Heyward on the Steelers' improving to 5-2-1 by beating AFC North rivals Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore in succession.

Game action photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Advertising