BALTIMORE -- Quarterback Ryan Mallett hardly looked like a player whose career appeared derailed two months ago and who has been wearing a Ravens uniform for less than two weeks.
Named the team’s starting quarterback just 10 days after joining the Ravens, Mallett made quite the first impression. On his first drive as a Raven, Mallett marched his team 75 yards in 15 plays, capping it with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Chris Matthews. From then on, Mallett played efficient, error-free football and helped the undermanned Ravens to a stunning 20-17 win over the Steelers in the home finale at M&T Bank Stadium.
Mallett finished 28-for-41 for a career-high 274 yards and became the fourth different quarterback to start this year for the Ravens – something that had not happened in the Ravens’ 20-year history.
“We thought he could win the game for us,” coach John Harbaugh said in explaining the decision to start Mallett over Jimmy Clausen, who had started the previous two games, or Matt Schaub.
“To operate the way he did, change plays at the line the way he did, I think that says a lot about him, but it says a lot about our coaches, too,” Harbaugh said. “Just a great effort. This kid was in there 24/7. This kid was in the staff meetings at night.”
Mallett and the Ravens kept things fairly simple, but he did take some chances and aired out a beautiful 39-yard throw to Chris Givens that was right on the money. He was also very effective with third-down throws; overall, the Ravens were 9-for-18 on third down.
“He’s been relaxed all week,” receiver Kamar Aiken said. “He kind of came in here and acted like he’s been here since OTAs. He was very comfortable the whole day and the whole week, and he was the same way in the huddle today.”
“He definitely had total command of the offense today,” Aiken added.
No one has ever doubted the physical tools of the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Mallett, a former third-round pick of the Patriots who started four games for the Texans earlier this season. But maturity issues have clouded his career; Mallett, 27, had frequent problems with tardiness with the Texans and was released in October after missing a team flight.
The Ravens signed him Dec. 15 after a workout.
“I want to thank the Ravens organization for bringing me in and giving me a shot,” Mallett said. “Just being here, I don’t even know what to say right now. It’s an emotional time but it’s fun.”
Harbaugh said after the game that Mallett will start the season-finale next week at Cincinnati. That will give the Ravens a good two-week look at him as they project forward toward 2016. The Ravens figure to be in the market for a backup for Joe Flacco, who is likely to be sidelined at least into training camp by after having season-ending knee surgery.
“Having a chance is something I don’t take lightly,” Mallett said.
“Getting the start, it was awesome,” he said. “To get a win was even better, so now it’s on to Cincinnati and we’ve got to get ready for them.”