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What you need to know from the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Steelers


What you need to know from the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Steelers

With two division matchups looming, the Baltimore Ravens welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium with much of their 2018 season on the line.

After dropping their last two games, a division win at home would have provided a much-needed confidence boost for the Ravens. But after 60 minutes of physicality, the Ravens were left with more questions than answers.

Lamar Jackson continued to put his versatility on display, Steelers running back James Conner showed why the Steelers are no longer concerned about Le'Veon Bell and the Ravens defense couldn't stop the Steelers on third down. 

Here's what you need to know from the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Steelers.

— Ravens-Steelers games are always interesting, but the most interesting play of the game happened between Ben Roethlisberger and Eric Weddle. Facing a fourth down, the Steelers kept their offense on the field but pulled some trickery when Big Ben punted the ball. Safety Eric Weddle saw it coming and was able to return it. You read that right. Roethlisberger punted the ball, Weddle returned it.

— We knew we'd have to keep an eye on Steelers running back James Conner all afternoon, and on their first drive he already had more rushing yards than he did all of Week 4 (19). The AFC Offensive Player of the Month made the Ravens' defenders look like children at times and finished the day with 24 rushing attempts for 107 yards averaging 4.5 yards-per-carry and 56 receiving yards and one touchdown. 

— Joe Flacco's day didn't get off to a strong start. On a third down and with Lamar Jackson in at receiver, the QB overlooked a wide-open Jackson in the end zone instead of throwing to John Brown in double coverage. What would have been an easy touchdown turned into a field goal attempt from Justin Tucker. We're sure Flacco will be reviewing that play a lot in film session this week.

— The Ravens' offensive woes continued against the Steelers going 4-for-12 on third downs and finishing the day with 268 net yards.

During the second quarter with the Ravens facing a third down in the red zone, a questionable play call had Lamar Jackson tackled for a loss, and prior to that play, Flacco's pass to Michael Crabtree was ever so slightly overthrown. If mistakes like these could have been corrected, the Ravens' season would be a different story.

Having a banged up offensive line didn't help them either. Patrick Eluemunor, who was starting at left tackle for the first time since college, was hit with a false start and a holding penalty all in one drive. 

— Third down conversions were one of many problems for the Ravens' defense Sunday. The Steelers converted 10-of-16 third down attempts (63%) and were 3-for-4 in the red zone. The men in black and yellow also held 36 minutes and 29 seconds of possession opposed to the Ravens' 23 minutes and 21 seconds. 

— The Ravens' first touchdown of the game didn't come until late in the third quarter. It took 11 plays, 75 yards and 3 minutes and 50 seconds for a one-yard touchdown run from Alex Collins to put the Ravens down by seven. The defense followed up on that much-needed drive with their first, and much-needed, three and out. 

— The hearts of Steelers fans everywhere dropped when Big Ben dropped after being tackled to the sideline by linebacker Za'Darius Smith in the fourth. Backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs then took over, throwing a 23-yard completion. Big Ben only missed a play and led his team to the red zone before cornerback Jimmy Smith broke up the QB's pass to Antonio Brown forcing a field goal. Postgame, Roethlisberger said he just had the wind knocked out of him.


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With 3-year extension for Tavon Young, Ravens begin stockpiling young talent

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With 3-year extension for Tavon Young, Ravens begin stockpiling young talent

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens defensive back Tavon Young has signed a three-year contract extension, part of the team's effort to retain budding talent.

The 24-year-old Young had one year left on his rookie contract, but first-year general manager Eric DeCosta wanted to get a jump on keeping the slot cornerback.

DeCosta says he "talked a few weeks ago about keeping our best young players, and Tavon is the definition of that."

After spending the entire 2017 season on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Young played in 15 games last season despite being bothered by a groin injury. He had 34 tackles, an interception and two fumble returns for touchdowns.

“To see him last year overcome the knee injury in the manner that he did, the work ethic his intensity and desire to be the best, is really impressive,” DeCosta said. “We look at what we think of the player and how he approaches his job day-to-day. We see him in the building. For me personally, seeing Tavon, watching him rehab, spoke volumes.”

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Young was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft after playing at Temple.

In his two seasons as an active player, Young has 86 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Young's contract extension will make him the highest paid nickel in the NFL, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. As to how he's going to celebrate? The Oxon Hill, Md native is going to keep it close to home.

“Just go out with my family, probably – take my mom and my dad out,” Young said. “I’m just happy for them. I called my mom [and] she couldn’t believe it. She was like, ‘Are you lying? Are you for real?’I’m like, ‘Yes, mom!’ I’m just so happy I can just take care of them now. It’s a blessing.”

NBC Sports Washington's Lisa Redmond contributed to this story.


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Ravens think concerns about Lamar Jackson injuries are 'overrated'

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Ravens think concerns about Lamar Jackson injuries are 'overrated'

Those concerns about Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson injuring himself when he hits the gas pedal in the open field are "overrated."

At least that's how new offensive coordinator and former assistant head coach & tight ends coach Greg Roman feels.

"It’s a little overrated, the whole danger thing," Roman said Tuesday. "Why? Because, and this is empirical data here, over the years you kind of realize that when a quarterback decides to run, he’s in control. So now [if] he wants to slide, he can slide. If he wants to dive, he can dive, get out of bounds -- all of those different things. He can get down, declare himself down. A lot of the time, the situations that [have] more danger are when he doesn’t see what’s coming -- my eyes are downfield, I’m standing stationary from the pocket, somebody is hitting me from the blindside."

Roman was promoted at the start of the offseason as the team begins shaping their offense around Jackson's run-heavy style of play. A style of play - that with the help of Roman - led the Ravens to the postseason for the first time in three seasons.

After Joe Flacco - a pocket-style quarterback - injured his hip after getting hit against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, Jackson eventually earned the starting job, and over seven games finished the season with 147 rushing attempts for 695 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Those 147 rushing attempts set the record for most attempts by a quarterback in a single season since the 1970 merger.

His speed is undeniable. His lack of fear as well. But how long he'll be able to sustain that immortality has been a talking point since he took off running Week 11.

The Ravens have a prime example of what can go wrong in backup QB Robert Griffin III, whose rookie season with the Washington Redskins was headlined by what would be a career-altering knee injury. Jackson's coaches, however, find the reward greater than the risk. 

"Every player is one play away from being hurt, and every quarterback standing in the pocket is one hit away from being hurt, too," head coach John Harbaugh said in January. "But the fact that he gets out and runs and scrambles ... I get it; I think it’s fair to consider that, but you can’t live your life in fear. I think there’s just as much fear on the other side that he’s going to take the thing to the house if he gets out and runs, too. So, we’ll live in that world as opposed to the other world."

Education was key last season and will continue to be going forward. During his press conference Tuesday, Roman mentioned that providing Jackson with the proper decision-making techniques is already in the works. 

"My experience, and I kind of learned this, is that when the quarterback takes the ball and starts to run, there’s not a lot of danger involved in that relative to other situations," Roman added. "Now, how does he handle those situations, to your point? Yes, last year, for example, was a learning curve for him on how he would handle a situation. Do we really want to take those hits? Why would I cut back against the grain when I could take it out the front door into space? All of those things started last year."