Without Jackson, Ravens rush by sloppy Steelers 16-14
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Baltimore's veterans kept telling their younger teammates they couldn't really consider themselves Ravens until they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The kids were listening. Particularly the third-year running back who has spent most of the last two seasons dealing with a balky left knee and the third-string quarterback who signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Oregon and figured he'd be a fixture on the bench or inactive most weeks as long as Lamar Jackson is around.
Now J.K. Dobbins and Anthony Brown are part of the lore in a rivalry with plenty of juice, even as the Steelers rebuild.
Dobbins ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in his first game since undergoing a second knee surgery in two years and Brown calmly kept Baltimore's offense humming along in the second half of a 16-14 victory Sunday. Brown filled in for most of the second half with Jackson out with a knee injury and backup Tyler Huntley placed in the concussion protocol.
“I've been hearing it most of my life from my father, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,'” said Brown, who completed a modest 3 of 5 passes for 16 yards but guided Baltimore on a clock-chewing late field goal drive that helped the Ravens end a four-game losing streak to the Steelers. “This was just a testament to that.”
A testament, too, to a Ravens offensive line that had its way even with the offense effectively one-dimensional without Jackson. It hardly mattered. Baltimore ran for 215 yards, including a clinching 6-yard burst by Gus Edwards for a first down at the 2-minute warning that let the Ravens (9-4) run out the clock to maintain their grip on first place in the AFC North.
“The offensive line was blocking so good and I can only go as far as they go,” said Dobbins, who was activated off injured reserve Saturday.
Against the Steelers, Dobbins and the rest of the Ravens went far enough to effectively end any outside shot the Steelers (5-8) had of being a factor down the stretch. Justin Tucker kicked three field goals, the defense picked off three passes and Calais Campbell blocked the eighth kick of his career as Baltimore won in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2019.
“Without our best player, and then losing (Huntley), for Anthony to come in and play the way he did, demand the huddle the way he did, (it was) very impressive," Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. "It was a huge team win. It was awesome to see.”
Pittsburgh played most of the game without rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who entered the concussion protocol in the first quarter at the end of an odd sequence in which he took a hit from Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith, was evaluated for a concussion, cleared to return only to be pulled after playing one additional series.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Pickett became “symptomatic” but could not provide clarity on why Pickett was initially allowed to return.
This is the second time Pickett has gone into the concussion protocol. He exited a win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 16, a game in which Mitch Trubisky came on in and threw two touchdowns in relief.
Trubisky, benched in favor of Pickett back in early October, was not nearly as sharp this time around when things got tight. Though Trubisky completed 22 of 30 for 276 yards including a 10-yard touchdown to Pat Freiermuth with 2:30 remaining, he also threw three interceptions, all in Baltimore territory.
“A lot of stuff I could do better, but coming off the bench I just wanted to go in there, try to provide a spark,” Trubisky said. “I thought we did a good job moving the ball, but I have to protect the football and that’s obvious.”
The Ravens insisted they would be fine even without Jackson, who is week to week after suffering a knee injury last week against Denver. They believe the same will hold true even if Huntley is unavailable next Saturday against Cleveland, though Harbaugh seemed to indicate he believes Huntley could be cleared by then.
If Baltimore can keep imposing its will with a running game featuring a finally healthy Dobbins to pair with Bradley, it might not matter who is behind center, at least in the short term.
Pittsburgh faces a final month in which it could be playing out the string — a rarity for a team that hasn't had a losing season since 2003 — and potentially doing it without their young franchise quarterback.
Tucker finished with 10 points to push his career total to 1,473, breaking the franchise scoring record held by former kicker Matt Stover.
Pittsburgh defensive end Chris Wormley left in the third quarter with a left leg injury.
Ravens: Travel to Cleveland next Saturday to face the Browns. Baltimore won the first meeting between the teams 23-20 on Oct. 23.
Steelers: Visit Carolina next Sunday. Pittsburgh has won each of its last six meetings with the Panthers.