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11/19/2012 1:07 AM EST
Ravens shut down Leftwich, Steelers 13-10
BALTIMORE 13, PITTSBURGH 10

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- It really doesn't matter to the Baltimore
Ravens who starts at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers,
the mission remains the same.



So do the results.



While injured starter Ben Roethlisberger watched from the
sideline, Baltimore pounded backup Byron Leftwich during a 13-10
victory on Sunday night that put the Ravens in complete control
of the AFC North.



The Ravens (8-2) sacked Leftwich three times, intercepted him
once and sent him crumbling to the Heinz Field turf on a handful
of occasions as Baltimore built a two-game lead over the
Steelers (6-4) heading into the season's final six weeks.



"We took the mentality as a team that we're going into a
fistfight," Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo said.



And the Ravens have no trouble brawling. On a night the offense
could get little going against the NFL's No. 1 defense, Jacoby
Jones returned a punt for a touchdown and Justin Tucker kicked
two field goals to help the Ravens win their 12th straight game
in the division.



Three of those victories have come at Heinz Field, one of the
most difficult places to play in the NFL. Still, Baltimore coach
John Harbaugh wasn't exactly in the mood to declare the division
race over.



"It's like halftime," Harbaugh said. "It's like we won the first
half and the second half is coming up."



The Steelers certainly hope it goes a little better than the
first.



Leftwich, making his first start in more than three years,
completed 18 of 39 passes for 201 yards and an interception. He
spent much of the second half slowly picking himself up off the
grass and was checked for a rib injury after taking a nasty shot
from Ihedbigo late in the fourth quarter.



Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin sent the 32-year-old veteran out
for one last-gasp drive, but it ended in chaos as the Steelers'
four-game winning streak came to an ugly end. Pittsburgh is 0-5
against the Ravens since 2005 when Roethlisberger doesn't play.



"We didn't find a significant play, particularly in the waning
moments and in any of the three phrases to be the difference,"
Tomlin said. "We accept responsibility for our performance, but
we also tip our hat to those guys. They did enough to win the
football game."



Even if the Ravens didn't do it with offense.



Joe Flacco wasn't much better than Leftwich, completing 20 of 32
passes for 164 yards. Running back Ray Rice managed just 40
yards on 20 carries, forcing the Ravens to rely on an old
standby make the difference.



Typically, that's not a problem. But this is not a typical year
in Baltimore.



The defense came in ranked 27th in the league in yards allowed
and is missing spiritual leader Ray Lewis, who is on the injured
reserve-return list with a triceps injury.



The emotional linebacker made the trip anyway, giving his
teammates a lift in the locker room. It translated onto the
field on a night the Steelers converted 5 of 17 third downs and
turned it over three times.



"We haven't been playing the best the past couple weeks, or the
whole season, some people say," said Baltimore cornerback Corey
Graham, who intercepted Leftwich in the third quarter. "We've
just got to find a way to get wins and that's what we were able
to do today."



The Steelers hosted a number of franchise greats, including
Hall-of-Famers Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Joe Greene.



Their presence was appreciated, though it did little to make up
for the absence of safety Troy Polamalu - out again with a right
calf injury - or Roethlisberger, the franchise's current
standard bearer.



"We just couldn't get our rhythm," Leftwich said.



Roethlisberger offered to do everything he could to help
Leftwich win his first game as a starter in more than six years
and insisted all week the offense wouldn't change.



For a fleeting moment, Roethlisberger appeared to be right.



Leftwich went deep on the game's first snap trying to hit Mike
Wallace, drawing a pass interference penalty on Baltimore's Cary
Williams. Two plays later Leftwich - who joked all week about
his lack of speed - bought time in the pocket, rolled to his
right and made for the sideline.



Rather than slide or duck out of bounds, the 250-pound Leftwich
got a block and raced - in a manner of speaking - 31 yards for a
touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. Roethlisberger lifted
his good arm in the air in celebration after the longest run of
Leftwich's career, and the play seemed to give Pittsburgh a
sense of confidence.



It didn't last. At least, not on offense.



The Steelers' second possession ended with a Wallace fumble that
Ed Reed returned to the Pittsburgh 14. Baltimore managed only a
field goal, but it seemed to bring the Steelers back to earth.



If that didn't, Jones did.



The explosive return man drifted under a Drew Butler punt late
in the first half, sprinted up the field, cut to the right and
zipped untouched to the end zone for his third return touchdown
of the season to give Baltimore a 10-7 lead.



"They were trying to set up the outside wall, but I saw nothing
but open field to the right so I thought, `Why not go this
way?"' Jones said.



Baltimore moved in front 13-7 in the third quarter on Tucker's
second field goal, more than enough to help the Ravens take a
major step toward their second straight division title.



"They talked about how it was going to be a physical game, how
it was going to come down to the end and it lived up to it,"
Graham said. "It was definitely a great experience. I look
forward to it in a couple weeks."



NOTES: Baltimore TE Dennis Pitta left the game with a concussion
in the first quarter and did not return ... Pittsburgh RB Isaac
Redman also left with a concussion and did not return ...
Pittsburgh RB Rashard Mendenhall had 33 yards in his first game
in a month ... The Steelers travel to Cleveland next week while
the Ravens play in San Diego.



---



Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP



---



Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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