Kevin Gorman's Take 5: Five thoughts on Steelers 26, Ravens 9
1. Pro football fans responded to NFL players staging silent protests during the national anthem last week in their own ways Sunday at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
Outside the stadium, I saw dozens of fans wearing clothing adorned with the American flag. One Ravens fan was wearing a Johnny Cash “Man in Black” T-shirt, saying it was his way of wearing team colors without wearing team apparel.
One protester held a sign that read, “This is a Role Model,” depicting Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, the former Army Ranger, with his hand over his heart; and “This is Not,” depicting former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee. On the other side, it read, “Disrespecting our Country and Fans, Not For Long” (with N-F-L in red).
Yet when the Ravens asked everyone to join them in prayer as they took a knee for unity and kindness, among other things, many Baltimore fans booed the team as they took a knee.
During the singing of the national anthem, a handful of fans left their hats on even after being asked to remove them. And Baltimore fans shouted “O” — an Orioles tradition — as well.
This time, NFL players showed more respect for the anthem than the same fans who spent all week criticizing them for the protests.
2. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this week that all Le'Veon Bell needed to get rolling was a big play, which would lead to his first 100-yard performance of the season.
From the start, the Steelers gave Bell plenty of chances. He touched the ball on the first five plays, including a shovel pass on third-and-3 at the 10 for a 5-yard gain and a first down.
When it came to third-and-1 at the 24, however, the Steelers turned to Terrell Watson to get the short yardage. And after Ben Roethlisberger was sacked for an 8-yard loss, James Conner took a handoff for a 23-yard gain and tight end Jesse James gained 15 on a screen pass.
Bell's breakthrough came twice in a three-play sequence: He took a shovel pass for a 15-yard gain and, two plays later, ran for 15 yards.
Bell had 56 yards on nine touches on the opening drive and, by halftime, produced 95 yards: 16 carries for 57 yards and three catches for 38 yards.
3. The Steelers moved from their own 3 to the Baltimore 13, only to settle for a Chris Boswell 30-yard field goal after their opening drive stalled after a pair of penalties on the offensive line.
Right tackle Chris Hubbard was called for a false start and right guard David DeCastro for a holding penalty (on a play where he tossed a Baltimore defender to the ground).
Four of the Steelers' offensive linemen were penalized in the first half: center Maurkice Pouncey for an illegal block in the back, DeCastro also for a false start and Villanueva a personal foul for unnecessary roughness at the Ravens 16 that forced the Steelers to settle for a Boswell 49-yard field goal.
Only left guard Ramon Foster escaped without drawing a flag.
That's not a good sign from a unit that includes a pair of Pro Bowlers in DeCastro and Pouncey.
4. Both teams took advantage of a turnover and converted it into a score. But if you think the team that scored the touchdown got the better end of it than the one that kicked a field goal, think again.
The Steelers got a break when inside linebacker Ryan Shazier burst through the line and hit Alex Collins. Defensive end Cameron Heyward forced the fumble and recovered at the Ravens 28.
Six plays later, Bell scored on a 1-yard run to give the Steelers a 13-0 lead with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
But Baltimore got the bigger break when a video review ruled that Antonio Brown lost control of the ball, leading to a Ravens interception. They settled for a Justin Tucker 42-yard field goal, but Baltimore had all of the momentum after that play.
After Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal wide left, Collins broke a 50-yarder to the Steelers' 16. Two plays later, Joe Flacco found Mike Wallace for a 16-yard touchdown to cut it to 19-9.
5. That the Steelers beat the Ravens, 26-9, should be celebrated
The Ravens were 8-4 against the Steelers since 2011, and the Steelers hadn't won in Baltimore since '12.
Of their previous 42 regular-season meetings, 27 were decided by one score and 19 by three points or fewer.
The Steelers, however, are now 4-0 against the Ravens in October, with victories in 1997, 2000, '02 and this year.
A double-digit victory over Baltimore (2-2, 2-1) is impressive, no matter how the Steelers appeared to play.
And, most of all, the Steelers (3-1, 2-0) are alone in first place in the AFC North.