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The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens' Big Win in Pittsburgh

The Ravens celebrating a TD

The Ravens scored a huge December win in Pittsburgh despite losing their top two quarterbacks, beating the Steelers, 16-14.

Baltimore moved to 9-4, remains in first place in the AFC North, and snapped a four-game losing streak to its AFC North rival.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

The Ravens won the slugfest with their signature blueprint.

The Ravens have taken a lot of heat recently for their roster construction, with some calling the investment in a strong defense and ground-and-pound offensive approach archaic. Well, it was that formula that won the game in Pittsburgh. It's been that formula that has the Ravens 3-0 in their division.

The Ravens went into this game thinking the winner would be the team who ran the ball and stopped the run. Historically, this brawl has come down to who is more physical, and Baltimore's arm was raised at the end. The Steelers landed their shots too, as both starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game, but the Ravens ultimately left their imprint on the renamed Acrisure Stadium.

Baltimore piled up 215 rushing yards, even without their top runner, Lamar Jackson. J.K. Dobbins returned from his midseason clean-up knee surgery to run for 120 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens iced the game with a well-designed and executed 6-yard smash by Gus Edwards and blockers. Everybody in the stadium knew the Ravens were going to run the ball on that final offensive drive and they did it with success anyway.

Defensively, the Ravens held Najee Harris to just 33 rushing yards and a Steelers offense that had been running well in recent weeks to just 65 overall on the ground. Then they picked off backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky three times.

The Ravens' blueprint to win the AFC North crown is to run the ball, stop the run, and force turnovers. It's often not going to look as pretty as some other top teams, but it's who Baltimore is. That formula has won a lot of games and will continue to do so. Most importantly, it won this game.

J.K. Dobbins isn't all the way back yet, but still makes a difference.

You could almost see Dobbins shaking off the rust and trying to get up to top speed on his 44-yard gallop on the Ravens' first touchdown drive. Coming off a midseason clean-up surgery of his surgically repaired knee, Dobbins admits he isn't all the way back, but he's clearly strong enough to make a difference.

Dobbins still had enough left on the play following his 44-yard run to pick and power his way through traffic for a 4-yard touchdown, and he seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

On the Ravens' massive 13-play, 57-yard drive that ate nearly eight minutes off the fourth-quarter clock and put Baltimore up by two scores, Dobbins ran fearlessly – five times for 29 yards, including back-to-back runs of 14 and six yards that got them in scoring range.

"I'm still not me yet," Dobbins said. "I gotta get back in shape. Get my knee back in shape, everything."

The Ravens will continue to lean heavily on their ground game down the stretch. They'll need it to thrive even when Jackson returns from his knee injury. Now that he has a 100-yard game under his belt, Dobbins said he wants 200-yard days. Heck, the Ravens will gladly just keep taking this.

Newcomers cement their Raven status as defense feasted on turnovers.

Ever since he arrived in Baltimore via midseason trade, Roquan Smith has seemed like he was born a Raven. But as the players say, you're not officially a Raven until you beat the Steelers. Check the birth certificate now, because it's official.

Smith got the Ravens' turnover party started with a red-zone interception in the first half, had a sack on the Steelers' first offensive possession, which unfortunately knocked Kenny Pickett out of the game, and finished with six tackles, tied for the team lead.

Smith wasn't the only newcomer who adapted well to his Steelers debut. Free-agent safety Marcus Williams also got an interception in his first game in this rivalry, hauling in a wayward deep bomb in the second half for the Ravens' last of three interceptions.

Perhaps nobody leaned more into the "You're not a Raven until you beat the Steelers" mantra this week than Patrick Queen, who had the other interception and perhaps the most spectacular of the bunch to keep the Steelers off the board just before the end of the first half.

Baltimore's fourth-quarter defense scared us once again down the stretch, giving up a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just 49 seconds after the Ravens took a two-score lead. But the three takeaways were the difference in the game.

Anthony Brown shows nerves of steel in the Steel City.

It doesn't get too much more daunting than stepping into your first NFL game as the enemy in Pittsburgh. Add in taking your first snap from your own 1-yard line, with reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt bearing down, and it's downright frightful.

That's what Anthony Brown did late in the third quarter after Huntley was removed from the game with a concussion, the result of a brutal hit to the head from Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Brown completed that first pass for a 3-yard gain that helped Baltimore dig out of its own end zone.

On the Ravens' massive final scoring drive, Brown completed back-to-back passes to move the chains. He threw a perfect sideline pass to Demarcus Robinson for six yards, then hit Mark Andrews for a 7-yard gain to convert on third-and-4. Brown completed just three passes, but that's all the Ravens needed. Most importantly, he didn't commit any cardinal sins.

On one play in that drive, when Andrews was seemingly screaming to get out of the huddle, Brown seemed to take a breath, calm things down, and get the play off. Quite impressive for a rookie in that environment.

Harbaugh indicated after the game that Huntley's concussion doesn't seem too severe. Perhaps Jackson, who was on the sideline for this win, can return next week. Either way, the Ravens know they'll be in capable hands when they travel to Cleveland for Saturday's Week 15 game.

Extra Points

  • Calais Campbell's blocked 40-yard field goal proved to be monumental in a two-point win. It's his second of the year as Campbell continues to have a monster season, both on defense and special teams. After the game, Harbaugh showed no hesitation calling him a Hall of Famer. You'll get no argument here.
  • Speaking of special teams, Justin Tucker's three field goals shouldn't be lost. He hit from 42, 35 and 30 yards and set the Ravens' new franchise record for points scored in the process, surpassing Matt Stover. Tucker is now 27 of 28 in Pittsburgh over his career.
  • The Ravens had a new issue crop up in this game – missed tackles. The Steelers are a physical team too, and they have some shifty playmakers with the ball in their hands, but that will surely be something stressed in meetings this week.
  • Andrews' stat lines have been quiet in recent weeks, and he finished with just two catches for 17 yards in this one. Part of the issue is he commands a lot of attention from the defense. The other is he keeps getting missed when wide open. Huntley didn't seem to see Andrews dragging across the field for what should have been a touchdown near the end of the first half. The Ravens settled for a field goal and a 13-7 lead.
  • Penalties and other questionable calls nearly proved quite costly for Baltimore. Justin Madubuike was hit with a roughing the passer call and Marlon Humphrey was flagged for defensive pass interference on the Steelers' final touchdown drive. Marcus Peters got flagged for unnecessary roughness after a Steelers offensive lineman took a cheap shot at him on the sideline and the retribution was caught. The referees picked up a flag on the hit to Huntley that sent him out of the game. The ball was brought back to the 1-yard line instead of a touchback after Williams' interception that brought his momentum into the end zone. Even a Ravens fumble recovery was ruled a (never seen this before) joint recovery. Good thing a tie goes to the offense by rule, because it didn't seem any close calls went Baltimore's way. That happens sometimes. They overcame.
  • Right guard Kevin Zeitler missed just his second game over the past eight seasons due to a knee injury that left him out of practice until Friday. The Ravens still ran down the Steelers' throats. Props to the rotation between Trystan Colon and Ben Cleveland. Cleveland helped pave the way for Dobbins' two big runs on the Ravens' only touchdown drive and he was credited with the fumble recovery.

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