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Pittsburgh's defense shines in 26-9 route of Ravens

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Le'Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards on 35 attempts, while the defense smothered the Ravens to the tune of 288 total yards in a 26-9 victory in Baltimore Sunday

BALTIMORE – It’s been five years since the Steelers found the winning side in Maryland.

Coupled with a national anthem controversy and an embarrassing loss to Chicago a week ago, Pittsburgh (3-1) had a powder keg filled with frustration, emotions and the angst to rebound.

The Ravens caught the brunt of it all.

With an all-around defensive performance, and a consistent effort in the ground attack, the Steelers blew out their AFC North rivals 26-9 at M&T Stadium Sunday afternoon.

The win in Baltimore marked the Steelers’ first since 2012.

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards on 35 carries, which was the second most in Baltimore’s franchise history.

“Great team effort by us.  We’re moving in the right direction in a lot of areas,” said Coach Mike Tomlin.  “Run game development, taking care of the football.”

The Steelers set the tone on their first drive of the game, surgically developing a 16 play- 84-yard drive capped by a 30-yard Chris Boswell field goal.  The drive, which started at their own 3-yard line, ate 10:23 of the first quarter.

“That drive was huge for us.  We consistently moved the ball,” said Bell, who rushed for a season-high total Sunday, while adding two touchdowns, including the final score of the game- a 1-yard run capping a 7-play, 49-yard drive.

“The script was to run the ball, and we knew we were coming in to the run the ball,” continued the running back.  “We did a good job sticking to the run.  The offensive line kept digging at it.  They blocked really well and our wide receivers blocked really well.  The holes got bigger as the game went on.”

Pittsburgh posted 381 total yards of offense—173 coming from the ground game—adding 22 first downs.

“We came in here with a gameplan to run the ball as much as we could, and run it out of shotgun formations,” said Ben Roethlisberger, who went 18-of-30 for 216 yards with a touchdown—an 11-yard hookup to JuJu Smith-Schuster that gave the Steelers a 19-0 advantage with 38 seconds left in the half.  “Everybody knew this was going to be a physical football game.  We thought it was important to establish the run game early.”

Bell led the team in receiving yards with 42 yards as the Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown connection could only muster 34 yards on four hookups, which left Brown frustrated early in the game, in which the receiver tossed a Gatorade cooler on the sidelines.

“Passion about the game, or anytime you work as hard and you expect something out of a play and it doesn’t go the way you want it you just get a little frustrated.”

While the offense had moments of inconsistency, it was the defensive unit that went wire-to-wire with an intensity that kept Baltimore (2-2) stuck in neutral.

Forcing five straight drives without points—including three punts and a fumble—the Steelers finally surrendered the first points of the game early in the 3rd quarter on a Justin Tucker 42-yard field goal coming off a drive that went for 3 plays and -6 yards.

“We came to play and our defense stepped up,” said Ryan Shazier, who led the team with 10 tackles and an interception- a pick at midfield on an apparent screen pass, which stopped a pivotal Ravens drive with 11:13 left in the game.

Shazier talked about his exuberant celebration after the momentum-shifting play.

“We’re in Baltimore, and I wanted to celebrate Ray Lewis style,” the linebacker explained.  “Our goal is to be the No. 1 defense, and Ray Lewis has a great legacy of being a great defensive player.  At the same time, I tried to make the home team a little mad, because it feels pretty good to win.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco did not share the same enthusiasm of Shazier, as the $20 million signal-caller was picked twice, tossing 31-for-49 with 235 yards.  Flacco accrued just 49 passing yards in the first half.

“I sucked.  I mean, you know, it wasn’t good,” Flacco said.  “We’ve got to be better off early in games.  When we’re trying to climb back in games like we were today, there’s opportunities to do it, and we weren’t good enough to do it.  That starts with me.  I wasn’t good enough to get us back in the game.”

The Ravens scored their lone touchdown of the game on a 16-yard pass from Flacco to Mike Wallace midway through the 3rd quarter.

“Everything was clear today,” said Bud Dupree, who finished with three tackles and a sack.  “We had a lot of enthusiasm out there.  We just played physical.  It wasn’t much of a scheme game as much as it was a one-on-one style game, which is how it is when we play Baltimore.”

Moving on to football

Both the Steelers and Ravens were on the field Sunday for the national anthem.  The Ravens took a knee during a silent prayer prior to the anthem, while the Steelers remined standing throughout.

Tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who was the spotlight behind the anthem controversy in Chicago a week ago, spoke about getting past all of the non-football hullabaloo.

“I’m tired of the cameras in my face all of the time.  It’s crazy,” said Villanueva.  “It’s sad that we have a Baltimore Ravens and Steelers game, and everybody is focused on the pregame procedures.  The team tried their best last week to handle things right but, unfortunately, you’re not always going to get it right.  I’m glad this week, we could give a good victory to Steelers’ nation.  Hopefully, now we can get things back on track again.”

When asked if he was happy about how things went this week, Coach Tomlin said, “based on the result of the game, yes.”

After the Spread

Pittsburgh came into M&T Bank Stadium as -3-point favorites, covering for the first time on the road.  The Steelers were 0-2 as road favorites after the spread with their 21-18 win at Cleveland (-10) and a 23-17 straight up loss to Chicago (-7).

In all four games this season, the Steelers have gone under the total, including Sunday’s, which was set at 42. 

Up Next

The Steelers will host Jacksonville next Sunday, with kickoff slated for 1 PM.

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