Ravens shut down sputtering Steelers, 13-10

Ravens 13
Steelers 10

PITTSBURGH — The Baltimore Ravens shut down Byron Leftwich, and Jacoby Jones supplied the big play they needed to grab control of the AFC North.

Jones returned a punt for a touchdown, Justin Tucker kicked two field goals, and Baltimore beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-10, Sunday night in another slugfest between two of the NFL’s biggest rivals.

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The Ravens (8-2) moved two games in front of the Steelers (6-4) by shutting down Pittsburgh’s offense, which sputtered without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Leftwich, making his first start in more than three years, completed 18 of 39 passes for 201 yards and an interception. He ran for a score but was also sacked three times.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco wasn’t much better, completing 20 of 32 passes for 164 yards, but the Ravens didn’t need Flacco to dominate to beat the Steelers for the third straight time at Heinz Field.

The Steelers fell to 0-5 against the Ravens since 2005 when Roethlisberger doesn’t start. The two-time Super Bowl winner is out indefinitely with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib.

Leftwich was looking for his first win as a starter since Oct. 8, 2008, a span of 2,234 days. He'll have to wait at least seven more after the Ravens pounded him relentlessly in the second half.

The 32-year-old Leftwich took a series of shots, none more painful than a blindside sack by James Ihedigbo that forced Pittsburgh doctors to check him out for a rib injury.

Baltimore’s offense struggled against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. Ray Rice finished with just 40 yards on 20 carries but it didn’t matter.

The Ravens ran out most of the final 4:33 behind Rice and a pair of Pittsburgh penalties. The Steelers could do little to stop the clock after Leftwich burned two timeouts during a late third-quarter drive.

That drive ended with a 22-yard Shaun Suisham field goal that drew the Steelers within 13-10. They would get no closer, as the efficient, clock-chewing machine offensive coordinator Todd Haley built around Roethlisberger crumbled.

The Ravens aren’t quite the snarling, intimidating force they have been in years past. The defense came in ranked 27th in the league in yards allowed.

Leftwich went deep on the game’s first snap trying to hit Mike Wallace, drawing a pass interference penalty on Baltimore’s Cary Williams. Two plays later Leftwich raced 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead.

The Steelers’ second possession ended with a Wallace fumble that Ed Reed returned to the Pittsburgh 14. Baltimore managed only a field goal, but it seemed to bring the Steelers back to earth.

Jones drifted under a Drew Butler punt late in the first half and zipped untouched to the end zone for his third return touchdown of the season to give Baltimore a 10-7 lead.

Baltimore moved in front, 13-7, in the third quarter on Tucker’s second field goal, more than enough to lift the Ravens to their 12th straight AFC North victory.