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Steelers notebook: Batch, Brown struggle to make connection

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Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers safety Ryan Clark intercepts a second-quarter pass intended for the Ravens' Dennis Pitta at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 2, 2012.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 9:08 p.m.

Antonio Brown, who missed the previous three games with an ankle injury, was out of sync with quarterback Charlie Batch.

The two connected only once in the first half, a pass that covered 8 yards.

Brown threw and ran the ball more times than he caught it in the first half. Brown pulled up on a flanker reverse to throw a pass to running back Jonathan Dwyer, but cornerback Corey Graham came away with an interception.

Brown appeared to have a second catch, but official scorers ruled it a lateral and a 4-yard run.

• Surprisingly, the Ravens didn't run on their opening possession. Instead, they opted to attack the No. 1-ranked pass defense with quick outs and slants, particularly cornerback Keenan Lewis. Quarterback Joe Flacco went after him eight times in the first half, but Lewis surrendered only one completion.

• The Ravens put the clamps on receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, but tight end Heath Miller bailed out Batch with five catches for 97 yards — including a 43-yard reception to set up Dwyer's 16-yard touchdown run to tie the score, 13-13, early in the third quarter. He caught a 7-yard scoring pass to set a franchise record with 38 TDs, a mark he shared with Elbie Nickel.

• Running back Rashard Mendenhall was inactive, signaling Isaac Redman and Dwyer will carry the load for the remainder of the season. Dwyer and Redman combined for 92 yards after the Steelers netted 49 last week against Cleveland.

• The Steelers' special teams held return specialist Jacoby Jones in check. Jones, whose 63-yard punt return was Baltimore's only touchdown in a 13-10 win two weeks ago, totaled only 22 return yards in the first half. He was forced to fair catch both punts.

• Defensive end Casey Hampton didn't like a trap block thrown by fullback Vonta Leach that flattened him on a first-and-goal run by Ray Rice. Leach's block, though, didn't resemble the below-the-waist blocks the Steelers accused Baltimore of using in the past.

• The Steelers let a number of interceptions slip through their hands in losses to Baltimore and Cleveland. This time, Flacco practically placed the ball in the hands of free safety Ryan Clark when he floated the ball up for grabs in the second quarter.

— Ralph N. Paulk

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