Ravens rookie running back J.K. Dobbins got his first taste of a starring role Sunday against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, and he showed he's ready for it.
The second-round pick topped 100 yards for the first time with 113 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.5 per rush) and hauled in one pass for eight yards.
"J.K. [Dobbins] wasn't anything surprising to us; he's going to play well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "All of our backs are excellent backs. They all make plays. They all run well when they go out there. So, it wasn't anything that I think was surprising in any way. We kind of expected him to play well, just like we do the other guys to play well when they go in there."
With veteran starter Mark Ingram II still sidelined by an ankle injury, Gus Edwards got the start and had one more carry than Dobbins (16 to 15). But the rookie played 54 offensive snaps compared to 26 for Edwards, and it was Dobbins who the Ravens leaned on down the stretch when trying to mount a fourth-quarter comeback.
The Ravens trailed, 28-24, midway through the fourth quarter when Dobbins got the ball on four of the next six plays. First it was an outside toss for a gain of 7, then another option to the left in which Dobbins weaved through traffic. Dobbins then tried the right side for a 5-yard gain, followed by an Edwards 20-yard rumble up the middle. The Ravens went back to Dobbins and the option on the next play for another 15-yard gain in which he shook off a high tackle, kept his balance and got a few extra yards.
"That's what they brought me here for," Dobbins said. "They brought me here to play in big games like this and help the team win. But we didn't get the win, so we need to just keep working."
Dobbins' longest run of the day was for 28 yards, a sprint to the right in which he outraced Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane to the edge, then turned up field and followed good blocks by tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Miles Boykin.
Despite facing a Steelers defense that entered the game allowing a league-low 68.8 yards per game, the Ravens rumbled for 265 yards and averaged 5.6 per carry. Edwards had 87 yards and Lamar Jackson picked up 65 more.
Dobbins' previous rushing high this season was 48 yards versus Houston. He's still looking to reach the end zone for the first time since he scored twice in the season-opener against Cleveland, but that seems imminent.
It was Dobbins' first taste of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry and it certainly won't be his last as the rookie seems to be hitting his stride midway through the season with a Thanksgiving rematch with the Steelers still on the schedule.
"Yes, definitely a physical game, and that's what I expected," Dobbins said of his first Ravens-Steelers battle. "We've got to be better next time."