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Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger rusty in return

By
Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers' quaterback Ben Roethlisberger leaves the field following their game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on November 6, 2016. Baltimore won the game 21-14. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI
Pittsburgh Steelers' quaterback Ben Roethlisberger leaves the field following their game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on November 6, 2016. Baltimore won the game 21-14. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

BALTIMORE -- Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was out of sync for most of the game against the Baltimore Ravens.

He was showing some rust after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left meniscus on Oct. 17. Roethlisberger finally found a rhythm with his team trailing 21-0 with just over 13 minutes to play.

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After orchestrating two scoring drives, the Steelers fell short of a stunning comeback in the 21-14 loss that knocked them out of first place in the AFC North. Roethlisberger overcame the slow start and completed 23 of 45 passes for 264 yards with a touchdown and interception.

"I just think I need to be better," he said. "I put it on myself. I need to be more accurate. Give them credit -- there were times I was going to make throws and their guys jumped in front of things, Suggs got a hand up, guys are jumping in front of guys, so you kind of hold onto the ball. ... I just need to be better."

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Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin had no reservations about starting Roethlisberger. However, the slow start put them in too big of a hole.

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Over the first three quarters, Pittsburgh managed just two first downs and had 69 yards of total offense. In the final quarter alone, the Steelers had 13 first downs and were an onside kick away from potentially tying the game.

"He was healthy to play," Tomlin said about Roethlisberger. "He was willing to play. I appreciate his efforts and his display of will."

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The Steelers have now lost three consecutive games. They will look to bounce back with a home game against Dallas in Week 10.

"We feel better than that," Roethlisberger said about being 4-4. "Our record tells us what we are. We're at a halfway point and we'll use this as kind of a halftime and then we need to be a great second-half team."

--Ravens Steve Smith Sr. caught a screen from quarterback Joe Flacco and blew by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell for a 30-yard gain in the first quarter.

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It was sweet moment for Smith, who put Mitchell on his "all-time hit list" after an altercation last year. After the game, the two had to be separated again after Mitchell approached Smith on the Ravens' sideline.

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The Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry was back to its former glory.

"He's not on my level; he never will be," Smith said about Mitchell. "He's not even on my kids' level."

Smith, 37, missed the past two games after suffering an ankle injury Oct. 16 against the Washington Redskins. Smith ran without any problems about two hours prior to kickoff and was deemed healthy enough to start.

He finished with four catches for 47 yards.

"Nobody is 100 percent," Smith said. "We just have to keep playing."

Smith was convinced that Mitchell speared him in the lower back in a Thursday night game in 2015 that Baltimore won 23-20 in overtime. That led Smith to decree that Mitchell was on his "all-time hit list." However, video later revealed that a Steelers linebacker had actually hit Smith on that play.

Nonetheless, the bad blood carried over to this game.

"This is a bitter pill for us to swallow, but we will get better and play better next week," Mitchell said.

--Tomlin said last week that his secondary need to create more turnovers. The Steelers entered the game against the Baltimore Ravens tied for 27th in the league with just three interceptions -- all from their linebackers.

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Pittsburgh finally got a big play when rookie corner Artie Burns intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Flacco midway through the first quarter. That ended a potential scoring drive by Baltimore.

"It was a concept they ran before and failed," Burns said about the interception. "We were in one of our set coverages. We recognized the route concept and went and got the ball."

Overall, the Steelers defense allowed just one touchdown and had three sacks with an interception. That unit got a boost with the return of defensive end Cam Heyward, who was back in the lineup after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. His presence made a difference as the Steelers held the Ravens to just 50 yards on the ground on 29 carries. Flacco also faced constant pressure and was sacked three times.

"We're at .500 right now," Burns said. "We got to get a win. We haven't won a road game yet. We have to get back to Pittsburgh and get a win against Dallas."

--The Steelers committed several costly penalties against the Ravens, including a flag for roughing the kicker that extended a drive.

Overall, Pittsburgh was penalized 13 times for 99 yards. They also had a punt blocked that led to a touchdown.

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"We came up short today," Tomlin said. "The bottom line is we put ourselves in a hole with some adversity, some of which was created by us. Largely, we were a highly penalized group."

The running game also struggled to take some of the pressure off Roethlisberger. Running back Le'Veon Bell Steelers had 32 of Pittsburgh's 36 yards rushing yards.

"Baltimore had a good game plan," Bell said. "You have to give those guys credit. They played well, but we'll see them again. ... We still have a lot of games down the road. We'll be fine."

--Ravens rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley was back in the lineup after missing the past four games and had made several costly errors.

Stanley, a first-round pick from Notre Dame, committed four penalties and showed the effects from the extended layoff. His third flag -- a 10-yard penalty for holding -- initially forced a 54-field goal attempt by Justin Tucker, However, the Steelers committed their own penalty on the next play for too many men on the field and Tucker nailed the kick from 49 yards.

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Flacco was also sacked three times. After the game, Stanley was glad to get the win and vowed to play better.

"It was a fight out there," Stanley said. "We got the win and that's what really matters. But yes, I know I can play better."

--Flacco gave the team a scare when he was forced to hop off the field after he jammed his surgically repaired left knee on awkward slide in the third quarter.

Flacco ran directly into the locker room and was able to return. A knee brace that he wears on his left knee did not survive and had to be replaced.

"The brace got caught when I went down on it," Flacco said. "I was just trying to do my little slide, pop-up. The brace got caught and totally bent out. I knew the trainers had another one, so I was just trying to get that on as soon as possible."

Flacco completed 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards with a touchdown and interception. He knows the team still left some big plays slip away.

"They are tough football games to win," Flacco said. "But, yeah, there is a little frustration in the fact that we're not playing as well as we want to."

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