BALTIMORE — Whether it’s early in the season, late in the year or in the postseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will always derive satisfaction from beating the Baltimore Ravens — especially on the road.
Pittsburgh hadn’t won in Baltimore since 2012 before ringing up a 26-9 victory Sunday. The Steelers gained sole possession of first place in the AFC North with the win, but because it comes just four weeks into the season coach Mike Tomlin reserved judgment on its significance.
“If we’re good, some of those variables are less important: opponent, game location,” Tomlin said. “That’s really what we’re striving for. We want to be the type of team that can win regardless of circumstance, game location, opponent, so forth. But acknowledging where we are, it was a good performance today.”
Pittsburgh (3-1) built a 19-0 halftime lead and coasted past their division rivals. To make matters sweeter, many of the purple-clad fans headed toward the exits with more than five minutes left.
“This is huge for us,” declared running back Le’Veon Bell , who carried 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger went 18 for 30 for 216 yards and a touchdown for the Steelers, who enjoyed their most lopsided win in Baltimore since the Ravens came into existence in 1996.
The Ravens (2-2) made a game of it in the third quarter, cutting the gap to 19-9, but the league’s 32nd-ranked offense didn’t have enough firepower to complete the comeback.
Some things we learned about these AFC North rivals, who won’t meet again until December:
ANTHEM: The Ravens took a knee collectively before the national anthem on Sunday, and the crowd instinctively booed —even though the announcer told the fans that the players were aligned in prayer.
When the music started, however, the Ravens stood at attention on the sideline.
After the game, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said it’s time to get back to concentrating on football.
“Early in the week we had conversations about it. You would go home and think about it,” he said. “The most important thing for us is to play football because that’s how we make our living. That’s how we support our families. We have to keep our eyes on the prize, which is this great game.”
The Steelers stood together on the sideline after remaining in the tunnel one week earlier in Chicago.
STREAK OVER: The Steelers were delighted to leave Baltimore victorious for the first time in four years. No one, perhaps, was happier than Roethlisberger.
“They’ve owned us here, and it’s no secret. I take that personally,” Roethlisberger said afterward. “When you feel like you can’t come to this place and win a football game, it bothers you.”
The Steelers’ 26 points are the most they’ve scored in Baltimore with Roethlisberger calling signals. With the win, Roethlisberger is now just 3-7 in his career in Baltimore.
Maybe that’s what makes it so satisfying to win.
“It’s here. It’s hostile. My goodness, that’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun to come win this football game, here especially.”
BALL CONTROL: The Ravens like what they’ve seen from running back Alex Collins, whose 50-yard run set up their only touchdown.
But his second fumble of the season set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown, and it’s clear his playing time will be determined by his ability to hold onto the football.
“When you come in here and drop the ball, I’m not going to tolerate it,” Harbaugh said. “The leash isn’t going to be long on that.” ?
Said Collins: “You just can’t dwell on it. Can’t think about mistakes. I just have to keep going and do the right things.”
NO OFFENSE: Flacco went 31 for 49 for 235 yards, getting picked off twice and sacked four times.
The Ravens have scored only seven touchdowns in four games, Flacco has six interceptions compared to four TD passes, and points are becoming increasingly hard to come by.
“It’s frustrating,” said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who had three catches for 21 yards Sunday.
THE MASK: Ravens LB Terrell Suggs had one tackle and no sacks, but no one on either team made a better entrance.
Suggs came out of the tunnel in the same mask worn by the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” movie.
“That was great,” Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “It brought us to another level. It brought the crowd to another level.”
Suggs came out with a gladiator mask before a 2014 game against Pittsburgh and was ultimately fined by the NFL.