Steelers stave off struggling Ravens in key AFC North battle

BALTIMORE — On a brisk, sun-splashed Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens remained ice cold, dropping their fourth game in five weeks, this time to the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked none the worse for wear despite playing with a broken finger on his non-throwing hand, passing for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His effort helped enable Pittsburgh (5-2-1) to take a half-game lead in the AFC North over idle Cincinnati. Meanwhile the Ravens, who now enter their own bye before facing the Bengals in Week 11, fell to 4-5 and saw their playoff hopes dim further.

Three other things we learned:

1. November is off to a good start for the AFC's offensive player of the month for October, Pittsburgh RB James Conner. He produced his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort (107) — the fifth of the season overall — and recorded his first career touchdown catch. The man he's replacing, all-pro holdout Le'Veon Bell, would have to report no later than Nov. 13 in order to accrue a season toward free agency. But with the Steelers back on the field Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, Conner won't be coming out of the starting lineup any time soon … and maybe not for many, many years. Baltimore defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale fretted last week that Pittsburgh could be better off without Bell, a prophecy that seemed to come to fruition at his own expense.

2. The new month heralds far less promise in Charm City. Prior to Sunday's setback, 11th-year Ravens coach John Harbaugh had been 30-12 in November and 7-0 at home against divisional opponents in the month. But Baltimore was uneven on offense, especially with rookie QB Lamar Jackson cycling in and out of the lineup to little effect while starter Joe Flacco couldn't connect on key throws. The Ravens are now in grave danger of missing postseason for the fourth consecutive year and fifth since the team won Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 campaign.

3. Something you don't see every day: Roethlisberger became the first quarterback since the 2013 season to punt (New England's Tom Brady was the previous one). Big Ben quick-kicked in the first quarter rather than run a play on fourth-and-6 from Baltimore's 38-yard line. His 27-yard pooch would have proven effective … had Baltimore S Eric Weddle not snatched it cleanly before managing an 18-yard return. Though the play is a rarity among this peers, the punt was the sixth of Roethlisberger's 15-year career (31.3-yard average), not including one that was blocked in 2014.


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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