MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Just as we thought it would be, because all of them seemingly are, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers resumed their old rivalry with another physical, black-and-blue style football game Sunday in Pittsburgh, with the Ravens exhibiting their “Next man up” organizational way of business to prevail, 16-14, to snap a four-game losing streak to their longtime rival and nemesis.

It had to be a case of “Next man up” because even as more men finally came back to the Ravens’ lineup, more men continued to leave it with various injuries and protocols.

The difference was the Ravens’ running game, which took it right to the Steelers for 215 yards on 42 carries, including 120 yards on 15 carries from running back J.K. Dobbins and a 13-play, 57-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that absorbed nearly eight minutes of clock to put the game on ice as the Steelers had used all of their timeouts.

The difference was three field goals by the incredible Justin Tucker, who became the Ravens’ all-time leading scorer on Sunday; and the difference was a blocked 40-yard field goal attempt by the Steelers in the fourth quarter by 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end Calais Campbell that kept the Baltimore lead at 13-7.

The Ravens defense stuffed the Pittsburgh running game to the tune of 65 yards on 20 carries and linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen and safety Marcus Williams picked off red-zone interceptions to keep the Steelers off the board.

The Ravens knocked out the Steelers’ starting quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first quarter, and the Steelers did the same to the Ravens’ starting quarterback Tyler Huntley in the fourth quarter, with both quarterbacks leaving the game under the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Historically when the Ravens have knocked out a starting quarterback, their fortunes have not been the best against the back-ups, beginning with a then-rookie by the name of Ben Roethlisberger. On Sunday it was veteran Mitch Trubisky who came in and almost immediately torched Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey for the first of a handful of times on the day, but it was also Trubisky who threw the three red-zone interceptions.

Anthony Brown, an undrafted rookie quarterback, spelled Huntley for the Ravens, taking over at his one-yard line after the Williams interception and doing a nice job of damage control, relying on the play of the offensive line, the running of Dobbins and Gus Edwards and even finding tight end Mark Andrews for a big first down on the possession in the fourth quarter that put the game on ice.

For the Ravens, any win in Pittsburgh is sweet, but Sunday’s was even more important in the most practical terms. It was in Pittsburgh a year ago where the Ravens’ season-ending collapse began because they didn’t have enough men to next-up under the rash of injuries they were facing. This year they had the men and they all next-upped as Baltimore improved to 9-4 overall and 3-0 in the AFC North with another critical division game coming Saturday in Cleveland.

The win also improved the Ravens’ statistical chances of making the playoffs to 99 percent, but as they proved with their one-point loss in Jacksonville two weeks ago, they are not a team that should take good fortune or favorable statistical analysis favorably or for granted.

As for the Steelers, it is never a smart thing to start throwing dirt on them, but at 5-8 on the season, the situation again seems grim, as the Steelers had bounced back nicely from a 2-6 start to get themselves back into playoff contention.

As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in his postgame presser, “Man, it was a disappointing outcome, but there’s really nothing mystical about it. We didn’t do the things necessary to secure victory.”

And as Tomlin continued to discuss the disappointing loss to the media, he kept referring to “the nature of this match-up” and what you can do (force turnovers in the red zone) and cannot do (commit turnovers in the red zone) to be successful in it.

So once again, the Ravens and the Steelers, both so predictable when they play each other, did not disappoint in producing yet another hard-nosed, old-style football game that is so rare in these days of #NFLTheTVShow.

No doubt, regardless of the circumstances for either or both teams, they will produce yet another one three weeks from now in Baltimore when they meet again — because this is what the Ravens and the Steelers have always done and will continue to do each time they face each other.

They will because they don’t like each other; yet they appreciate and respect each other.

The rivalry remains as honest and as true as the two cities it takes place in.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT