BALTIMORE – Five observations after watching the Ravens snap a four-game losing streak while beating the Steelers, 21-14:
1.Throw shade at the AFC North if you want, but the Ravens lead the division.
Both the Ravens and Steelers are 4-4, but obviously the Ravens won the head-to-head matchup, and the Bengals (3-4-1) had a bye. Do we even need to mention the Browns (0-9)? They should be in their own division called the AFC Winless. The Ravens can move to 5-4 on Thursday night if they beat the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens’ schedule gets much tougher after that, but clearly the AFC North is up for grabs.
2. Blocking kicks has been a saving grace for the Ravens.
In this game, it was a blocked punt by Buck Allen that was scooped and returned 14 yards by Chris Moore for a touchdown. That play gave the Ravens a 21-0 lead, creating a hole that the Steelers couldn’t climb out of. Allen and Moore have barely gotten to play on offense this season, by giving 100 percen on special teams, their effort produced a key touchdown.
3. The Ravens won in spite of their running game, not because of it.
Terrance West (15 carries, 21 yards) was bottled up, and even with their starting offensive line intact, the Ravens’ running game sputtered. Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley had his worst NFL game with four penalties. The Ravens can celebrate this victory, but their offense still needs plenty of work.
4. Defensively, the Ravens were outstanding.
The contained Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (13 carries, 19 yards), they limited wide receiver Antonio Brown (seven catches, 85 yards, one TD) until the fourth quarter, and they put constant pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter when he tried to rally the Steelers. Jimmy Smith continued to play at a high level at cornerback, and the Ravens also got strong play from rookie corner Tavon Young and veteran corner Jerraud Powers. The big plays that had been hurting the Ravens badly in recent games were eliminated.
5. Wide receiver Mike Wallace has been the best new addition to the Ravens’ offense.
Wallace (four catches, 124 yards, one TD) set a positive tone for the Ravens with his scintillating 95-yard catch and run in the first quarter The Ravens only have six touchdown catches this season, and Wallace has four of them. Nobody is asking anymore if Wallace is washed up. Whatever problems the Ravens have on offense, Wallace isn’t one of them.
MORE RAVENS: Mike Wallace sets Ravens record on long TD