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PRESTON: Ravens show signs of life during win over Steelers

MIKE PRESTON
YorkDispatch


The Ravens weren't just at the bottom of the barrel in the AFC North, but under it.

That all changed Thursday night with a 23-20 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens were fortunate: The Steelers' Josh Scobee missed two second-half field-goal attempts, and Pittsburgh was without injured star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But who cares?

The Ravens won their first game of the season, and maybe this is a new beginning.

There were signs of improvement Thursday night against Pittsburgh, but this team has been snakebit. It isn't bad. It has good personnel. It just self-destructs.

Worse yet, the Ravens lost star wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. to a lower-back contusion in the third quarter, and No. 3 receiver Michael Campanaro was carted off Heinz Field late in the fourth quarter.

But if the Ravens didn't find a way to lose, they created some opportunities. They had an interception and a fumble that turned the momentum of the game and didn't get a crucial first down in crunch time.

It was as if they had run out of luck.

But they ran into a team that has its own misfortune. The Steelers didn't have Roethlisberger, and they don't have a kicker. They had some questionable play-calling, and the Ravens hung around long enough to win.

Before Pittsburgh, the Ravens' three losses were to teams with a combined 8-1 record. Their defense was horrendous and their offense erratic.

Their only hope was that anything can happen in the NFL, and their fortunes turned Thursday night. There is now hope and more time.

Against the Steelers, there were signs of a team with life. The Ravens were on a respirator, but there was a pulse. They ran the ball well. Offensive linemen made blocks and got to linebackers at the second level.

Running back Justin Forsett, who hadn't played well in the first three games, was accelerating and causing defenders to miss tackles. If the Ravens were going to win games in 2015, they had to have a running game, and they seemed to find it Thursday night.

The Ravens were successful on third down, converting their opportunities and moving the ball consistently.

On defense, the Steelers were without Roethlisberger, and that played a part in why the Ravens defense looked so improved, but at this point, it was a positive.

Let's be serious here: The Ravens aren't going to scare anybody with this defense, but at least they appeared to know where they are going now.

They have won a game, and next they play the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 4, followed by a game against the 49ers in San Francisco a week later. Both are winnable games. A .500 record is within reason.

It's a new beginning, at least for another week.