BALTIMORE _ They started strong and finished stronger.
The result was a 26-9 victory over the Ravens on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, a hard-earned triumph that was oh-so-satisfying for the Steelers.
The first time they got the ball, they marched it from their 3-yard line to the Ravens' 12. Although they eventually settled for a field goal, the 3-0 lead kicker Chris Boswell's 30-yard effort provided capped a 16-play, 84-yard drive in 10:23. The possession included seven carries and two receptions by running back Le'Veon Bell, early touches that produced a combined 56 yards and helped set an early physical tone.
"We came out with the gameplan to run the ball out of the shotgun (formation) to kind of press some issues there," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger explained. "To do that the (wide) receivers have to block on the outside. We did a lot of pulling stuff, got the tight ends moving. That's a big drive for us, from the backed-up 3. We talked about just getting one first down, that's the most important thing is to get that one first down. And we took it down the field, used up I think pretty much the whole (first) quarter. Unfortunately had to settle, but that's a big drive for us to start the game.
"Coming out and being physical, running the ball against this team at this place, everyone knows that this is a physical football game so to come out and kind of establish that, get it going was big for us."
The last time they gained possession with the intention of doing something other than taking a knee to kill what was left on the clock, the result was a seven-play 49-yard drive in 3:11 for the fourth-quarter touchdown that provided the exclamation point. Bell carried six times for 41 yards and finished things off with his second rushing touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run that provided the final margin.
Game action photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
"The last drive was even more beautiful," Bell said, comparing it to the first. "We kind of just forced our will on those guys. As the drive was going I was kind of seeing the gaps open up a little bigger, a little bigger.
"As a running back, you see an O-line doing that, you kind of start foaming at the mouth a little bit, like, 'OK, I'm about to start popping some.' I'm glad (offensive coordinator) Todd (Haley) stuck to the run."
WELCOME BACK: Bell had said last week he hadn't been "special" during the first three ganes of the season.
He still hasn't been, he maintained, despite carrying 35 times for 144 yards and two scores and catching four passes for 42 yards against the Ravens, but he's getting closer.
"I definitely feel like I moved in the right direction," Bell said. "I'm glad we got the 'W,' our O-line blocked the way they did, Ben put us in all the right plays, our (wide) receivers blocked on the edge. Our defense played exceptional, too, you have to give those guys credit.
"It was a total team effort."
Bell surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time this season with 186, the seventh-highest such output of his career.
"I know when we're out there and we're grinding at the end or he's getting stuff in the passing game, he looks like Le'Veon to me," Roethlisberger assessed. "I know his numbers haven't been what everyone expects and what he expects. But the things that we're asking him to do, to me that's what 2-6 does."
CHARM CITY:** The Steelers hadn't won on the road against the Ravens since 2012 and had a record of 1-5 in their last six road tests against the Ravens dating back to 2011.
"It's huge," Bell said. "Anytime we play the Ravens getting a win against those guys in the (AFC North) Division is big for us. This is my first win in Baltimore so it was extra special to me."
Added Roethlisberger: "They've owned us, owned us here, it's no secret. I take that personally. I've played this game a long time, played against these guys, had a lot of great battles. And when you feel like you can't come to this place and win a football game, it bothers you. So to be able to come here and get a good win, AFC North, kind of finish that first quarter of the season, satisfying."
PREGAME MISSION ACCOMPLISHED:** The Steelers stood for the national anthem before the game, as center Maurkice Pouncey had said they would last Wednesday.
"I'm so proud of my teammates, man, even more than the win right now, that we went out and represented the organization the right way and Steeler Nation," Pouncey said. "It was awesome."
HE SAID IT: "I had a conversation with Coach Tomlin (head coach Mike). Coach Tomlin and I have a very good personal relationship, it's outside of the professional sort of realm of questions and conversations that I can have with him. To wake up in the morning and see a face of Coach Tomlin and a face of a soldier pitted against each other is completely unacceptable from the media. To use me as a tool to push agendas and to push messages, that's completely unacceptable. I understand you guys are trying to make your money but in our locker room we're trying to win football games and we're trying to do the best we can.
"I think after I had that conversation with Coach Tomlin, everything's been solved. Teammates, issues, remaining, lingering sort of beefs and what not, I can't control that stuff. I'm very close to my values and how the team perceives me and so I'm pretty happy to be a member of Steelers Nation trying to represent the City of Pittsburgh." _ Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.