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John Harbaugh admits Ravens victory over Steelers is "a big deal"

John Harbaugh admits Ravens victory over Steelers is "a big deal"

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Some early season NFL victories are more meaningful than others, especially one within your own division, on the road against your biggest rival.

So, after Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted Monday that Baltimore had already turned its focus toward its next game, he acknowledged that beating Pittsburgh on Sunday night was pretty darn special.

"It's a big deal," Harbaugh declared. "It's a big deal because the road runs through Pittsburgh the last couple of years to win the division. You start with that."

Yes, there's more than one reason why the 26-14 victory was so satisfying to the Ravens (3-1), who moved into a tie with Cincinnati atop the AFC North.

"You have to win division games to win the division. That's the next thing," Harbaugh said. "And it's the Steelers. We hadn't beaten them three games in a row and three years in a row there. So to go up there and win means a lot to us."

Pittsburgh has captured the last two AFC North titles and three of the last four, earning a wild-card berth with its second-place finish in 2015.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have gone three straight years without a playoff berth. Perhaps this victory could serve as a step in that direction.

"What a freaking win. Wow," said safety Eric Weddle, now in his third year with Baltimore. "We talk about all the time: You can't become a true Raven until you win in Pittsburgh, so I've officially become a Raven. What a great team win, from the offense controlling the clock, to making big plays (and) our defense shutting them out in the second half."

Not to mention solid play by the special teams. Justin Tucker accounted for all the game's points in the second half after the Steelers rallied from a 14-0 deficit to pull even at halftime.

It all added up to a feel-good victory that made Monday in Baltimore a bit easier to tolerate.

"I've heard that the fans are having a great day today," Harbaugh said. "My wife said she's out and about, everybody's talking about the game and everybody's fired up and happy. Even the people who went to bed at halftime. Look what you missed."

For those who slept through it, the recap is simple: Baltimore held the ball for 21 minutes, limited the Steelers to three first downs and did not allow Pittsburgh to get past midfield.

With one-quarter of the season over with, it's hard to determine the Ravens' identity. At times, they've been an offensive powerhouse, at other times a defensive steamroller.

Joe Flacco threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers and now has eight TD passes compared to a pair of interceptions. The defense, meanwhile, hasn't given up a touchdown in the second half.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to the team Monday and will practice this week after serving a four-game suspension from the NFL for using performance enhancers.

"Rumor has it he got here at 8 o'clock," Harbaugh said. "He did not beat me in, for the record, but he was here and he's been working out. We're expecting him to practice Wednesday."

The Ravens expect Smith will be ready for Sunday's road game against Cleveland (1-2-1).

"If he's in shape and if he practices well and looks like he can go," Harbaugh said.

Baltimore also hopes to have tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen).

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Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

Their record and performance over the last month may not show it, but the Baltimore Ravens are just one game out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1), Los Angeles Chargers (7-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (6-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Miami Dolphins (5-5) all rank above the Ravens. But a win Sunday against the Bengals would push the Ravens to the No. 6 spot as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans.

Beside remaining in playoff contention, a win Sunday is crucial considering head coach John Harbaugh's job is in question with his team sitting at 4-5, quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly dealing with a hip injury and the possibility of rookie Lamar Jackson getting his first NFL start. 

After getting blown out 51-14 by the Saints, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Cincinnati's defense ranks last in the league in passing yards allowed (313.3) and total yards allowed (454.6). A rested Ravens team will have to take advantage of the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games as they are among five teams within one game of the final wildcard spot. 

Getting shutout by the Bengals this season would give Andy Dalton and co. a two-game lead over the Ravens as well as possessing the tiebreaker. 

According to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator, the Ravens have a 27% chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 11 with their remaining strength of schedule ranking at No. 27. 

After hosting the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6), but have tough road games against the Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). 

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. 

Presented annually by USAA and the NFL, the award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. 

The Robert Griffin III Foundation supports Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that helps aid those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military; Luke's Wings, which united wounded warriors, veterans and heroes with their loved ones; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, that helps ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving when they return home. 

Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan where his parents were stationed as U.S. Army sergeants. The quarterback spent time living in Fort Carson, Colorado, Seoul, Korea and Fort Hood, Texas as a military kid. His family then settled in Cooperas Cove, Texas, an hour drive from Baylor University where Griffin III attended college. 

Finalist for the award will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show Saturday, Feb. 2, on the eve of Super Bowl LIII.

RGIII's head coach, John Harbaugh, received the honor in 2013. 

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