Bernard Pierce knew he messed up in the season opener when he fumbled and was, as a result, benched for the remainder of the game.
"It's just my job to come back stronger next week," he said at the time.
Pierce did just that, rushing 22 times for 96 yards (4.4 per carry) Thursday night against the Steelers. He nearly notched his first 100-yard rushing game since Dec. 23, 2012.
Pierce showed shiftiness inside the tackles, churning out steady yardage. Later in the game, he flashed his explosive speed in getting around the edges. And, most importantly, he held onto the ball.
"Bernard bounced back," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That shows you what he's made of, that shows you his mettle a little bit, and he finished it off in the fourth quarter pretty good, as did Justin [Forsett]."
Pierce handled the lion's share of the running duties. He carried the ball 22 times compared to eight rushes by Forsett, who notched 56 yards (most coming on a 41-yard carry in the fourth quarter).
It was a totally different night for Pierce after he had just six carries for 17 yards in the Ravens' season opener.
"What a difference from last week," he said. "I knew I was going to get called on tonight, and I was really focused to correct the mistakes I made from last week. The offensive line did a great job making holes, and we just wore them down in the second half."
Pierce's fumble, which happened deep in Ravens territory and was recovered by the Bengals, proved to be a costly error in the Ravens' Week 1 loss. He didn't get another touch.
"I knew it was nothing personal," Pierce said. "It was business, and I did not take care of business last week. I learned a lot this week on how to prepare through adversity, and the coaching staff was terrific."
The Ravens' run game was also able to get in much more of a rhythm against the Steelers than it did days earlier. Baltimore ran the ball 36 times compared to 29 passes. Against the Bengals, the Ravens ran 20 times and threw 62 times.
"Well it was big," quarterback Joe Flacco said when asked about the balance.
"And the big thing was, even if we weren't getting big runs, we were still making plays on third down. We were still moving the chains. … And then, as the game went on, and we got that lead, it allowed us to continue to run the ball. When your carries can go up, when you can get the lead late in the game, you really start to pound them."
The Ravens know they're going to need Pierce to run well this season if the offense is going to have success. With Ray Rice no longer on the team, Pierce is the starter for the long haul.
"He's going to be huge for us," Flacco said. "He's going to have to come in and play with confidence. He's going to have carry a big load for us. He's a good runner and it's going to show as we continue."