Typical Steelers-Ravens game: The Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium was typical of what the rivalry has become.
A battle to the end.
A series of events that included a blocked punt by Miles Killebrew that led to a safety, a Chris Boswell field goal, and a Joey Porter Jr. interception set the Steelers up for a game-winning drive that culminated with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to George Pickens.
"Just really appreciative of the effort of the men, particularly the new guys, whether it's the new veterans that are new to us or the rookies, this is their first exposure to this series, this matchup," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "You really got to be a part of it to understand it and appreciate it and be ready to deliver what is required in terms of effort, in terms of fight, and attention to detail. And so those guys that are new to the Steelers, I just really appreciate it.
"Obviously, it was Steelers-Ravens the way it usually is in that it is a hotly contested game. In recent years it's been controlled by the defense as it was today. But can't say enough about that significant play by Miles Killebrew. You block a kick in the National Football League, you usually win football games, and obviously that is a significant contribution. We had a block on, and he delivered. Man, this guy has blocked a lot of kicks in recent years. He's got to be tops in the National Football League in that regard. It's been special to be a part of it.
"Just appreciative of the effort, it's a good to go into the bye sitting at the top of the North, particularly with all that we've been through.
"Still very much a group in growth and development. There's a lot out there obviously that we didn't like. But that's life in this business, as well. Our job is to win, and we got the business done today."
While Killebrew's blocked punt got the momentum swinging in the Steelers favor, Pickens touchdown and his play throughout the game was just what the doctor ordered for the offense. He finished the day with six receptions for 130 yards and the touchdown.
"George had to have a big game," said Tomlin. "These type of games, hotly contested, a lot of one-on-one matchups, we talked about it throughout the week. Oftentimes it comes down to one-on-one playmaking, particularly on the perimeter in the end when things get a little bit tight. And so, it was important that we stay engaged for 60 minutes and deliver those timely plays at the end, which he did."
Pickett finished the game with 18 completions for 224 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"I really think that that's kind of been the difference in these games of late," said Tomlin. "We've done a good job of taking care of the ball, and we've done a good job of getting the ball.
"All of the games have been difficult. The defenses again have controlled them in the recent history of the series, but within those games we've taken care of it, and they haven't, and that's probably why we're having success."
Settling in: The Steelers defense turned up the heat against the Ravens, especially in the second quarter.
After allowing just 10 points in the first half, the defense shut down the Ravens in the second half.
"Just tightening up," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "We know that teams are going to score in the NFL. Like we say, they have scholarships too. They work all week. They created a great plan.
"We just settled in. Really, I think we were gang tackling, we were able to make some big plays defensively, get after the quarterback and make him uncomfortable a little bit. I thought the coaches made some nice adjustments. At the end of the day, it's all about execution.
"Really proud of the way that we settled into the game and were able to bow-up in a lot of big-time situations. The inside backers played really well today. Obviously able to create some pressure up front. And heck of a play by Joey Porter. In a big-time moment, in a big-time game against top quality talent. That's a huge play.
"Just doing our job, we're not paid to do anything other than go out there and make as many plays as possible. Try to deliver the ball to the offense if we can. Otherwise hold them to field goals."
Watt had plenty of huge plays himself and helped deliver to the offense. He had two sacks for a loss of 15 yards, two passes defensed and fumble recovery with the game on the line late.
Watt said it was all about staying focused all week, staying on track, and not wavering.
"A lot of highs, a lot of lows," said Watt. "You need to stay constant to a degree. We're not going to change everything we do. Coach (Mike) Tomlin does a good job of getting us prepared, getting us ready each week. I think he did a great job this week letting the guys who haven't been here know the importance of this rivalry. We have to know there are a lot of new faces in the locker room. We really hit that point home, and you could feel that out there today."
The win puts the Steelers at 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the AFC North, good for first place at this point in the season as they head into their bye week.
"Good time for the bye week, and the first place doesn't mean anything right now," said Watt. "It's still super early. Need to get some guys back. You just take some time, let the body rest a little bit and look at the film."
The ups and downs: The latest Kenny Pickett-to-George Pickens buzzer-beater slayed the Ravens and, perhaps, ignited a much-needed spark that can ignite the offense when the Steelers resume play following their upcoming bye.
"It pushes you that way," Pickett maintained after his 41-yard touchdown pass to Pickens with 1:17 left in regulation produced the Steelers' first lead of the afternoon on the way to a heart-stopping, 17-10 decision over Baltimore on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. "Obviously, there's ups and downs in a season. There's ups and downs in games but we found a way to win down the stretch and I think that's all that matters. It's nowhere near as good as it needs to be, speaking from an offensive standpoint.
"We understand that, all the players do, all the coaches do. We're working tirelessly at it to get better and put more points on the board. But at the end of the day we went down there and we won at the end of the game and got the 'W.'"
The Steelers were less than two minutes removed from their second consecutive game without an offensive touchdown and potentially their second consecutive loss when opportunity knocked and Pickett and Pickens answered.
"They went 'zero' (coverage)," Pickett said. "We were preparing all week in those kinds of bigger moments that they were gonna go 'zero.' Got the protection right, gave George his route and he went up there and won.
"Big-time player making big-time plays in those moments and that's what we got in No. 14."
The two had hooked up on a 14-yard scoring strike with 46 second left that ultimately beat the Raiders, 13-10, last Dec. 24 at Acrisure.
Pickett had also found Najee Harris for what turned out to be a game-winning, 10-yard touchdown pass in a 16-13 decision over the Ravens last Jan. 1 in Baltimore.
The resumption of hostilities played out as advertised, as it often has between the two bitter rivals.
Sunday's grudge match was the 25th in the last 31 meetings to be decided by one score (eight points or fewer).
"'Coach' (head coach Mike Tomlin) showed us kind of a tape earlier in the week of how close the games always are against the Ravens," Pickett said. "That's just how it goes in the AFC North (Division). All the teams are so competitive, great defenses, great offenses going at it every week.
"We were saying it's gonna be like a marathon-type game, it's gonna come down to the end. If everyone's doing their job, we'll have a chance to win at the end. That's exactly what happened."
The Steelers persevered and had their chance at the end despite the Ravens holding a 244-88 advantage in total net yards at halftime.
The Steelers also had to settle for a field goal that cut the Baltimore lead to 10-8 with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter after they had failed to punch the ball into the end zone on a series that included a first-and-goal from the Ravens' 5-yard line.
"We stayed together, and I was preaching that all week," Pickett said. "You get to this level, there's so many outside factors that try to get into a team and try to pull a team apart, whether it's media related, fan related, whatever it may be.
"You have to stay together in football. It's the ultimate team game, offense, defense, special teams, 11 guys on the field working together, pushing each other and playing their hearts out to go win the game, and that's what we did.
"Incredibly proud of our team here."
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