Steelers’ offense sputters in loss to Ravens

November 19, 2012
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich (4) out runs Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) on his way to the end zone for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH – Baltimore’s offense didn’t do much Sunday night against the Steelers’ top-rated defense. But the Ravens didn’t have to.

Taking advantage of the Steelers without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens turned two turnovers into a pair of field goals and got a punt return for a score as Baltimore outlasted Pittsburgh, 13-10, at Heinz Field.

The victory puts Baltimore (8-2) in firm control of the AFC North, two games ahead of the Steelers (6-4).

It also improved the Ravens to 5-0 against the Steelers in games in which Roethlisberger does not play.

Quarterback Byron Leftwich made his first start with the Steelers and completed 18 of 39 passes for 201 yards. But the Steelers also converted only five of 17 third downs.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was barely better than Leftwich, completing 20 of 32 passes, but for just 164 yards as the Steelers limited the Ravens to 200 total yards.

Despite the strong defensive effort – including limiting running back Ray Rice to 40 yards on 20 carries – the Steelers couldn’t get the ball to the end zone after their first possession.

The Steelers came out of the gate strong, with Leftwich going deep to wide receiver Mike Wallace on the first play from scrimmage. Wallace drew a 42-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Cary Williams.

Two plays later, Leftwich sprinted to his right to avoid pressure from Terrell Suggs, outran Suggs to the line of scrimmage, broke an arm tackle attempt by safety Bernard Pollard and rumbled into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown run.

It was the longest run in Leftwich’s 10-year NFL career, topping an 18-yard scramble he had as a rookie in 2003.

After forcing a Baltimore punt, the Steelers were backed up inside their own 20-yard line. On third down, Leftwich threw a slant pass to Wallace, who fumbled at the end of a 15-yard gain. Baltimore’s Ed Reed recovered the loose ball and returned it to the Pittsburgh 12.

Baltimore gained just four yards and settled for a 26-yard Justin Tucker field goal that trimmed Pittsburgh’s lead to 7-3.

The Ravens, who had done little on offense with their first three possessions, got a boost late in the first quarter when Jacoby Jones returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to go ahead 10-7. The return for a score was the third in the past five games for Jones.

The Steelers gave up a 31-yard catch and run to Rice on Baltimore’s next possession, but the Ravens stalled at the Pittsburgh 22 and Tucker missed a 41-yard field goal wide right one minute into the second quarter.

The score remained 10-7 until Leftwich was intercepted at the Baltimore 18 by Williams, who returned the ball 20 yards. Baltimore drove into Pittsburgh territory and settled for another Tucker field goal attempt. Tucker connected on the 39-yard try to give Baltimore a 13-7 lead with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter.

The Steelers ran the ball well on their next series and drove from their own 16 to the Baltimore 4, gaining 38 yards on six carries along the way. But Wallace was unable to keep both feet inbounds on a fade pass from Leftwich on third down and the Steelers used a 22-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham to trim Baltimore’s lead to 13-10 late in the third quarter.

The Steelers twice drove across midfield in the fourth quarter, but Leftwich was sacked twice on third-and-long to end both possessions with punts.

Pittsburgh had a chance in the final minute after forcing a Baltimore punt following a James Harrison sack, but with no timeouts and starting from their own 16 the drive ended without moving into scoring range.

Odds and end zones

Ravens tight end Dennis Pita left in the first quarter with a concussion and did not return. … Pittsburgh running back Isaac Redman suffered concussion in the second quarter and did not return. … Defensive end Ziggy Hood injured his back. He was replaced by Cameron Heyward. … Steelers running back Baron Batch left in the third quarter with a foot injury. ... The Steelers ran the ball 27 times for 134 yards, with Jonathan Dwyer leading the way with 55 yards on 12 carries.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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