Backyard brawl

The initial plan produced all of 64 total net yards, zero third-down conversions in three attempts and zero points scored on offense in the first half in Baltimore, so in the second half the Steelers went without one.

"I was telling the line the protection and moving guys around and playing backyard football, if you will," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger explained. "I don't know that we called too many quote-unquote plays in the second half when we were in that mode."

It worked.

The Steelers scored three touchdowns on five second-half possessions and turned a 10-point halftime deficit into a hard-fought, 28-24 victory over the Ravens on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

It was the Roethlisberger tight end Eric Ebron had been longing to see.

"That's kinda what I came here for," Ebron said. "I came here for that Ben Roethlisberger, that guy that has trust in his players that are on the field."

Roethlisberger completed 17 of 22 second-half attempts, for 158 of his 182 passing yards on the afternoon and both of his touchdown passes.

The Steelers emptied the backfield with regularity and repeatedly deployed a personnel group that included wide receivers Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Ebron.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium

Smith-Schuster wasn't targeted in the first half but finished with a team-leading seven catches for a team-leading 67 yards receiving.

Five of Smith-Schuster's catches produced first downs, including a 2-yard gain on third-and-1 from the Baltimore 41-yard line on which Smith-Schuster caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage and ran through cornerback Marlon Humphrey to move the chains on the drive that produced the eventual game-winning touchdown.

"We threw a personnel group at 'em that we hadn't done much before, no (running) backs, and emptied things out," Roethlisberger said. "It just created things, defensive looks and opportunities for us.

"I know my whole career people say that I've always kind of had the playground, backyard football. Today it was in its truest form. There were plays when I would say, 'Hey, JuJu you run this, Ray-Ray you run this,' and they didn't blink and eye. They were able to just do things on the fly and I think that's what makes me most proud today."

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING: Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith went to school after getting beat on a first-half reception by Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and came up with an interception on a pass to Andrews early in the third quarter that turned the momentum back in the Steelers' favor.

Roethlisberger hit Ebron for an 18-yard touchdown two snaps after Highsmith's pick and the Steelers pulled to within 17-14 after trailing by 10 at halftime.

"I knew they were coming back to that because they ran the same play in the first half and I didn't drop deep enough and he threw it over my head," Highsmith explained. "I learned from that play and just dropped deeper."

At that juncture outside linebacker T.J. Watt interrupted Highsmith's Zoom session with the media.

"That's a great answer, he learned from the play," Watt emphasized.

Added Highsmith: "The ball fell right into my hands. I learned from my mistake."

THE MOTHER OF INVENTION: Highsmith was on the field for his third-quarter interception as a part of a five-linebackers package with fellow outside linebackers Watt and Bud Dupree and inside linebackers Robert Spillane and Vince Williams.

The Ravens had two tight ends, a wide receiver, a fullback and a running back on the field on first-and-10 from the Baltimore 17.

Highsmith replaced cornerback Steven Nelson in what otherwise was the Steelers' base defense.

"When you go against unique offenses you're gonna have to do unique things on defense," Watt explained. "It was just another way to get a mobile player that can play the run and the pass and have more guys on their feet to be able to protect the quarterback scrambles."

Tomlin said the unavailability of nickel cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) was another factor in the Steelers' defensive creativity.

"Mike Hilton functions as a little linebacker," Tomlin said. "He has a unique skill set for his body type and the position he plays.

"We were without him today and we were playing a great running team, so it required an adjustment."

THE PLACE TO BE: Tomlin assessed the Steelers as lacking in "detail," and cautioned against letting the desired result cloud their judgment in terms of assessing the quality of their performance.

The Ravens out-gained the Steelers, 457-221, converted 53 percent of their third downs (8-for-15) and possessed the ball for 35:22 to the Steelers' 24:38.

"I am proud of the fight," Tomlin said. "I am proud of how they supported one another but it is important that we don't lie to ourselves.

"We did not function well in a lot of ways."

But that said Tomlin thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being in the eye of another hurricane against the Ravens.

"You better believe it," he confirmed. "It is an honor. It is a humbling experience.

"This is what we signed up for. This is why we do what we do at this level. To be a coach, a player, a trainer or anybody, you want to be in these stadiums. You want to have (Jim) Nantz and (Tony) Romo (of CBS) calling your game. You know you are in the right building. We have respect for that, we appreciate it and we are honored to be a part of it."

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