Byron Leftwich was making his first start since September 2009 for injured Ben Roethlisberger and couldn't generate a touchdown after the first three plays. He was 7 of 17 for 85 yards in the first half and finished 18 of 38 for 204 yards. But he had problems converting third downs in the first half (1 of 8) and finished 5 of 16. His biggest play was a 31-yard scramble for a touchdown on the third play of the game, the longest run of his NFL career.
Rashard Mendenhall's return had little impact on the offense, especially in the first half, when he had 8 yards on three carries. Jonathan Dwyer did the bulk of the work, especially when he carried three times for 15 yards and caught a screen for 15 yards on a third-quarter field-goal drive. The Steelers had 66 yards rushing in the first half, but 31 came on Leftwich's touchdown. Dwyer had 15 of his 55 yards in the first half.
It was the second game in a row without leading receiver Antonio Brown, and his absence has been felt on third down, when the Steelers were 1 of 8 in the first half. Emmanuel Sanders had the longest catch in the first half (25 yards) and second half (37) and finished with three catches for 82. Mike Wallace had a big fumble after a 15-yard gain that led to a Ravens field goal. Jerricho Cotchery had two penalties in the first half.
The Ravens had been allowing 173.5 yards rushing the past four games, but the Steelers could not generate a lot of movement up front, especially in the first half. But they did a better job in the second half and finished with 134 yards rushing. Still, Leftwich took a lot of hits from the Ravens' pressure and was sacked three times. RT Michael Adams struggled with DE Paul Kruger most of the game, allowing a sack and two pressures that forced incompletions in the first half.
The defense did a good job against the run, holding the Ravens to 20 of their 47 rushing yards in the first half. RB Ray Rice had just 13 of his 40 yards before halftime. DE Brett Keisel delivered a big hit on QB Joe Flacco on his first pass attempt that might have set a good tone. NT Casey Hampton made a big stop for 2-yard loss at the Steelers 12 in the first quarter, forcing a Ravens field goal.
LaMarr Woodley got caught in a mismatch and allowed a 31-yard pass to Rice that was the longest in the first half. But he made a big third-down stop on Rice to start the third quarter and a third-down sack on Flacco in the fourth. James Harrison made his presence felt a little more, especially on pass rush, and had a big third-down sack that gave the Steelers one last chance at victory. Still, the defense couldn't force any turnovers.
Flacco was the fifth QB in a row to be held under 200 yards passing by the Steelers and failed to produce a touchdown. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 164 yards. CB Keenan Lewis continues to shine on the edge, making several big stops in the first half and back-to-back passes defenses in the third. Ike Taylor made a nice athletic play to break up a deep pass to Torrey Smith and was strong against the run.
The game effectively changed with one big play, and the Steelers never recovered. After not allowing a punt return longer than 27 yards, the Steelers allowed their first scoring return of the season when Jacoby Jones had a 63-yard punt return to give the Ravens a 10-7 lead and change the momentum. Chris Rainey struggled on kick returns because he negates his biggest weapon -- speed -- by being indecisive.
The defense did its job, holding the Ravens offense without a touchdown, shutting down the run and keeping Rice from hurting them with big plays. But the offense that led the league in third-down conversions struggled to do so without Roethlisberger and could never generate any momentum after the first series. A big replay challenge by Mike Tomlin to get a first down went for naught in the fourth quarter.