BALTIMORE – Five things we learned watching the Ravens upset the Steelers, 20-17, Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
1. Ryan Mallett made a strong debut in his first start for the Ravens.
Mallett (28 for 41, 274 yards, one touchdown) delivered the ball quickly, played with confidence, showed his big arm, and gave the Ravens a jolt of energy. Several of Mallett’s completions were whipped through tight windows, and his fourth-quarter deep completion to Chris Givens could not have been thrown better. Mallett definitely earned the right to start the season-finale at Cincinnati. Easy to see why the Ravens were intrigued by him, despite his off-the field issues that led to his departure.
2. The Ravens (5-10) have cost the Steelers (9-6) dearly this season.
Two of Pittsburgh’s defeats have come against the Ravens, and if the Steelers don’t make the playoffs, they will look back at this loss harshly. The Steelers had much more at stake, but instead of starting strongly and putting the game away early, the Ravens started fast and gained confidence. The Ravens have played hard through adversity all season, and this time it paid off.
3. Rookie running back Buck Allen showed his resiliency after being benched last week.
Allen ran hard (15 carries, 79 yards) and didn’t fumble, after being benched for fumbling the previous week. Losing Justin Forsett (broken arm) was one of many costly injuries for the Ravens, but it gave Allen more playing time, and he took full advantage. With Forsett already 30 years old, It is not hard to envision Allen being the Ravens’ lead back in the not-too-distant future.
4. This may have been the best game the Ravens’ defense has played.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith had a pick-six wiped out by a penalty, but did a superb job matched against Antonio Brown and the Steelers’ other receivers. Cornerback Shareece Wright was also excellent in coverage, linebacker Daryl Smith had an interception, and Courtney Upshaw and ZaDarius Smith also got pressure on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh came into the game having scored at least 30 points in six straight games, but the Ravens kept the Steelers from making back-breaking big plays.
5. Forget about the Ravens having the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
The Ravens will still have a high pick, but they won’t pick first, and Ravens fans should not be disappointed. They’ll have a chance to fill some of their needs from wherever they pick next spring.