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Knee-jerk analysis: Steelers overcome themselves to claim first place in AFC North

Pittsburgh comes out on top in the latest crazy chapter in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In what turned out to be one of the strangest chapters in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, Pittsburgh came out on top in the game, and in the AFC North, with a 17-10 win to put them at 3-2 heading into the Week 6 bye week.

Nothing about the game was pretty, but the first half was especially rough for the Steelers. They were outgained by the Ravens 244-88 and Baltimore held the ball for over 18 minutes compared to just under 12 minutes for the Steelers. At one point, the Ravens had 10 first downs when the Steelers had only run nine plays. The offense failed to reach the end zone and looked like their usual lost selves.

The Ravens kept the Steelers in the game, though. They dropped multiple touchdowns in the red zone on consecutive plays that caused them to settle for a field goal, with Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman both letting six points slip through their hands. Baltimore also made a questionable decision to go for it on fourth down rather than kick a field goal before halftime. Pittsburgh was vastly outplayed, and were lucky to only be down 10-3 at the half.

In the second half, though, the Steelers defense and special teams potentially saved their season. A Miles Killebrew blocked punt resulted in a safety for Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter to make the game 10-5 before Pittsburgh kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 10-8.

After a turnover on a punt return, the Steelers looked as good as dead when Joey Porter Jr. picked off Lamar Jackson in the red zone to give the Steelers another shot at life. Pittsburgh went down the field and culminated their comeback with a 41 yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to George Pickens.

Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt would all but seal the deal with a strip sack and recovery off Jackson to set up another Boswell field goal to make the game 17-10. On their last gasp, Jackson was sacked, once again, by Watt, which put the Steelers in first place in the AFC North.

Watt had two of the four sacks on Jackson, taking his season total up to eight. The unquestioned player of the game, though, was Pickens, who had the best game of his career. The second-year receiver had six receptions for 130 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Jaylen Warren also had a big game, totaling 79 all-purpose yards on 12 touches. In totality, the Steelers’ offense outgained the Ravens 201-91 in the second half and didn’t have any turnovers while the Ravens had three on the day, as well as the blocked punt.

The only negative that comes from this game is that Matt Canada is all but certainly keeping his job. Despite how poor the offense is playing, Mike Tomlin isn’t going to fire him after a win when they are in first place in the division. It seems as if the Steelers will have to grind out wins like this all season, much like they had to do down the stretch in 2022.

Regardless, right now, despite all of their flaws, and despite doing all they could to lose this game, the Steelers sit atop the AFC North going into the bye week- that’s more than what many expected coming into the season.