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Steelers stay hot, defeat Ravens, 23-16

The Steelers remain in first place in the AFC North after defeating the Baltimore Ravens, 23-16, in another hard-fought battle between the teams in the series.

The win is the Steelers third consecutive AFC North victory, improving their record to 5-2-1 on the season.

“Man, tough environment today,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “The Ravens were playing with a lot of resolve. It’s great to get AFC North road victories under those circumstances. We weren’t perfect by any stretch. I just love the spirit and competitiveness of the group. Very thankful to get out of here with a win. We don’t have a lot of time to absorb it. We have to quickly transition. We have Thursday night ball. We embrace that challenge. We’ll quickly get ready to move forward.”

The win didn’t come without a nerve-racking moment when Ben Roethlisberger, who was the Steelers Digest Player of the Game, was tackled by Za’Darius Smith after a scramble and laid on the field for an extended period of time. Roethlisberger missed only one play, though, quickly coming back after it was just the wind getting knocked out of him.

“I am doing all right. I thought I was dead for a second,” said Roethlisberger. “Luckily it was just the wind. That is a big guy landing on you. I had to take a quick breather. I am all right. I feel like a typical Steelers-Ravens postgame, just glad we got the win.

“Any AFC North football game is awesome. We came here, their place, hostile environment. A lot of respect for these fans. This is one of the loudest places I have ever played. We came out and we executed. That drive at the start of the second half was huge. A lot of third down conversions against the number one defense in the world. It feels pretty good.”

When Roethlisberger went out, Joshua Dobbs came in for one play. And it was a huge one. The Steelers were facing a second-and-20 from the five-yard line and Dobbs’ first pass of the season was a 22-yard strike to Smith-Schuster to move the chains.

“Josh is uniquely mature as an individual, not as a football player,” said Tomlin. “He is steady-Eddie. That personality is helpful to him. We have a great deal of confidence in him. That guy was challenged in a big way to earn the job he has, the role he has for us. He has never blinked at any point in the process. Because of that we have a great deal of confidence in him. It was displayed and he confirmed it with his play.”

Roethlisberger completed 28 of 47 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, while James Conner had his fourth straight 100-yard gain, carrying the ball 24 times for 107 yards. He also had seven receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.

The defense was stingy again, allowing just 61 yards rushing and 209 yards in the air, while sacking Joe Flacco twice.

“(This win) means a lot,” said Roethlisberger. They got us the first time at home. We were able to come here and get this one.”

Before the game the Ravens showed a sign of solidarity with the Steelers, observing a moment of silence for the 11 victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.

After that, the rivalry between the two teams heated up.

The Steelers won the toss and deferred to the second half, giving the Ravens the ball to start the game. The defense wouldn’t allow them to go far though, forcing a punt on the opening drive.

Conner got off to a strong start, gaining more yards in his first two carries, 33, than he did in the entire game against the Ravens in the earlier meeting this season when he had just 19 yards. But the offense wasn’t able to accomplish their goal of scoring on the opening drive, and on fourth-and-6 from the Ravens 38-yard line at first appeared to be going for it. Instead Roethlisberger pooch punted it, netting just nine yards after Eric Weddle retuned it 18 yards to the Ravens 29-yard line.

With good field position to start their drive, Joe Flacco hit Michael Crabtree for 13 yards and Chris Moore for 30 yards. The defense shut them down inside the red zone, and the Ravens had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Justin Tucker for an early 3-0 lead.

A determined offense came out looking to respond, and they did just that. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 11 yards, and JuJu Smith-Schuster on back-to-back receptions for nine and 23 yards, and James Washington for eight yards. Roethlisberger capped the drive, where he completed six-of-eight passes for 56 yards, with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Conner, taking a 7-3 lead.

Another defensive stop set the Steelers up to extend the lead. Roethlisberger connected with Vance McDonald for 13 yards, Washington for nine, and Conner for eight. On fourth-and-one Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for six yards to move the chains and went back to Conner for 17 yards. Roethlisberger, who was six-for-seven on the drive for 59 yards, topped it off with a six-yard touchdown pass to Brown, extending the lead to 14-3.

The defense once again kept the Ravens out of the end zone, despite getting down to the Steelers four-yard line. The Ravens answered with another 23-yard field goal by Tucker, cutting the lead to 14-6, one that would go into the half.

The Steelers got the ball to start the second half and Roethlisberger came out firing. He hit Smith-Schuster for 23 yards, and it looked like an unsportsmanlike conduct call was going to be tacked on when he was hit by Weddle. But a holding call on Jesse James resulted in offsetting penalties. That didn’t deter the Steelers offense. Roethlisberger, who completed six-of-eight passes for 54 yards on the drive, converted three third downs on the drive. He hit Conner for 10 yards, who battled to the one-yard line. Roethlisberger took it himself on the quarterback sneak, for the one-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 20-6 after Chris Boswell’s extra point went wide left. The 15-play, 75-yard drive ate up 8:14.

On the ensuing drive the Ravens found the end zone for the first time in the game. A pass interference call on Morgan Burnett gave them the ball at the one-yard line. Alex Collins went around right end for a one-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-13 in the third quarter.

A three-and-out gave the Ravens the ball back, with momentum in their favor. But the defense was thinking no way. A holding call pushed the Ravens back 10 yards, and Vince Williams sacked Flacco for a loss of seven yards, forcing a three-and-out and giving Roethlisberger and company the ball back.

Penalties hurt the Steelers early on the ensuing drive. Darrius Heyward-Bey was called for holding on the punt, giving the Steelers the ball backed up at the 15-yard line to start the drive. Brown was flagged for offensive pass interference, negating a 12-yard reception.

On the next play Roethlisberger scrambled for 12 yards and was taken down by Smith, landing on his right shoulder and leaving the game. And to add insult to injury, Alejandro Villanueva was called for holding, negating the play and backing the Steelers up to their own five-yard line.

Dobbs came in facing a second-and-20 from the five-yard line and his first pass of the season was a 22-yard strike to Smith-Schuster to move the chains.

Roethlisberger came right back into the game, and never missed a beat. He hit James for a 51-yard completion, and on third-and-eight connected with Smith-Schuster for nine yards to the 10-yard line. The Ravens defense stiffened, with Jimmy Smith breaking up two passes and Conner stopped for a one-yard gain. Boswell gave the Steelers a little bit of breathing room, hitting a 29-yard field goal to extend the lead to 23-13.

The Ravens answered with a field goal of their own, Tucker hitting a 37-yarder to cut the lead to 23-16 with 5:23 to play in the game.

With a seven-point lead to protect, Roethlisberger converted on third-and-five, hitting Brown over the middle for an eight-yard gain. On third-and-four, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for seven yards to move the chains. The Steelers couldn’t convert on their next third down, forcing a Jordan Berry punt.

The defense stepped up, with Tuitt sacking Flacco for a loss of seven yards and despite a last-ditch attempt by the Ravens on the final play of the game, the Steelers held strong for the 23-16 win.

First Quarter: Steelers 0, Ravens 3
Scoring Play: Justin Tucker 23-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 10-66-4:20

First Quarter: Steelers 7, Ravens 3
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger seven-yard touchdown pass to James Conner.
Scoring Summary: 8-61-3:59

Second Quarter: Steelers 14, Ravens 3
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger six-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 12-75-5:46

Second Quarter: Steelers 14, Ravens 6
Scoring Play: Justin Tucker 23-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 6-58-2:41

Third Quarter: Steelers 20, Ravens 6
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger one-yard touchdown run. Extra point wide right.
Scoring Summary: 15-75-8:14

Third Quarter: Steelers 20, Ravens 13
Scoring Play: Alex Collins one-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 11-75-3:50

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 23, Ravens 13
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 29-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 11-74-5:49

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 23, Ravens 16
Scoring Play: Justin Tucker 37-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 9-56-3:03

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