You had a hunch coming in the Ravens’ playmakers might have a bit of an edge.
The return man’s touchdown and the backup corner’s interception, respectively, were the difference in the Ravens’ 13-10 win over the Steelers.
The road win moves the Ravens to 8-2 this year, in firm control for the division title, two up with six to play. That they did it against a Steelers team without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger matters not at all to them, as they stayed perfect in non-Ben games.
The Steelers were sloppier than you’d expect, even with a backup quarterback on the field. From wasted timeouts to ill-timed penalties, they weren’t sharp. The games are always close, with seven of the last nine decided by a field goal. They’re generally better-played than this, however.
Here are five more things we learned on Sunday Night Football:
1. He is a veteran. And the touchdown run was cute.
But Byron Leftwich isn’t going to take the Steelers far, such that he’ll be able to.
He was clearly hurting coming down the stretch, and if he wasn’t, you’d worry more.
He was a dreadful 7-of-17 passing (41.2 percent) for 85 yards in the first half, a 57.2 rating.
The interception in the third quarter was exactly the kind of play you can’t make in that situation, and he was a sitting duck a few times, unable to get out of the pocket.
Close-ups showed him in discomfort, and if he turns up with broken ribs or something, we’ll apologize for the portion of his game in which he was hurt and not just inefficient.
2. It is not fair to compare the current Ravens defense to previous incarnations.
As in, the ones that were good at playing defense.
Without Ray Lewis, they look fairly rudderless at times. Terrell Suggs is back, sort of, but not explosive enough to take up the slack. Ed Reed is still better than most, but he’s not Ed Reed anymore. And Haloti Ngata must be hurting more than he’s letting on (after taking last week off), because he’s not making an impact at the moment.
That the numbers Sunday night were good remains a function of the Steelers’ offense as much as their own superiority. They were more timely than stout, and got the win. But they’ll struggle against teams with better offenses.
3. The Steelers do have the league’s best defense, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
But the job they did on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was impressive.
The main deep threat was held in check, with just one catch for 7 yards.
And without him, it threw their whole plan out of whack, and it kept the Steelers in the game longer than they ordinarily would have been.
4. Not much was working in the first half for the Ravens offense.
But give coordinator Cam Cameron credit for consistency.
Even though they ran 13 times for just 20 yards in the first half, they kept running. For any team, much less a team with a quarterback the caliber of Joe Flacco, the temptation would be to stop bothering to run.
But keeping tempo can be as important as yards gained, as running the ball often has cumulative effects. It kept the Steelers honest as much as anything, and Ray Rice getting 20 rush attempts is generally a good thing, even if he gained just 40 yards.
5. Winning coin tosses and choosing directions is more important in Pittsburgh than other places.
Because trying to kick a field goal into the open end of Heinz Field is treacherous, as Justin Tucker showed in the first half, missing a 41-yarder.
He had only missed one other field goal this year, but there are no sure things if you’re kicking toward the Monongahela. Or Allegheny. Or Ohio. I can never remember which.