Le’Veon Bell, Steelers run over Ravens in first-place duel

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell carries the ball into the end zone. (Alex Brandon/AP)

BALTIMORE — The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got their offence running. The wait continues for the Baltimore Ravens.

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and the Steelers beat the Ravens 26-9 on Sunday in a duel for first place in the AFC North.

Though held to a touchdown over the final 30 minutes, Pittsburgh (3-1) mounted enough of an attack before halftime to earn its first win in Baltimore since 2012.

"Not a perfect game, but a great team effort by us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We’re moving in the right directions in a lot of areas: run game development, taking care of the football."

Coming into the game, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to identify the problem with a Pittsburgh offence that had produced only six touchdowns in 12 quarters.

"The quarterback needs to play better," he said.

Roethlisberger went 18 for 30 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception, but it was on a deflection that required a replay reversal.

"I still feel I personally didn’t make all the plays," Roethlisberger said. "My goal this week was to take what they give us, don’t turn the ball over, and punting isn’t a bad thing. And I thought we did a pretty good job of that."

Bell carried 35 times to help the Steelers amass 381 yards in offence.

After being held to 61 yards in an overtime loss to Chicago last week, Bell ripped through the Ravens for huge chunks of yardage.

"He’s the best and his numbers weren’t showing it," Pittsburgh centre Maurkice Pouncey said. "There’s been a lot of pressure on him to go out there and produce at a high level, and we’re real happy he did it."

The Ravens (2-2), meanwhile, looked every bit like the 32nd-ranked offence in the NFL. Baltimore trailed 19-0 at halftime, generated only 154 yards through three quarters and stumbled through a second straight game with only one touchdown.

Joe Flacco completed 31 of 49 passes for 235 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted twice.

"It starts with me," Flacco said. "I wasn’t good enough to get us back in the game."

Baltimore closed to 19-3 in the third quarter after an interception by Ravens safety Eric Weddle. The turnover occurred only after a challenge by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh overturned the original ruling of a catch and a tackle.

After Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal, Alex Collins promptly ran for 50 yards to set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Mike Wallace. The Ravens went for 2, made it, then lost the points after a replay showed Terrance West’s elbow hit the ground before the ball made it to the end zone.

In the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-12 from the Pittsburgh 47, Flacco was picked off by Mike Hilton with 5 1/2 minutes left, launching a rapid exit by many of the fans.

That led to Bell’s second 1-yard touchdown run with 2:26 to go.

The Steelers’ first drive of the game covered 84 yards, lasted nearly 10 1/2 minutes and ended with a 30-yard field goal.

"That first drive where we went down and put points on the board, that was a good start for us," receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.

It got a whole lot better for Pittsburgh.

Boswell made it 6-0 with a 49-yarder midway through the second quarter after Roethlisberger connected with Smith-Schuster for 19 yards on a third-down play.

A fumble by Collins set up a touchdown run by Bell, and Roethlisberger threw an 11-yard TD pass to Smith-Schuster for a 19-point cushion.

ANTHEM

All the Steelers stood on the sideline during the national anthem. So did the Ravens, but only after taking a knee in unison before the song began.

Last week, the Steelers remained off the field in Chicago during the anthem.

INJURIES

Ravens TE Benjamin Watson had to go through concussion protocol in the second quarter and returned in the third.

SUGGS’ MASK

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs thrilled the crowd during the pregame introductions by coming out of the tunnel in the same mask worn by the villain Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises" movie.

Suggs came out with a gladiator mask before a 2014 game against Pittsburgh and was ultimately fined by the NFL.

UP NEXT

Steelers: After two straight road games, Pittsburgh hosts Jacksonville on Sunday. The Jaguars lead the series 12-11.

Ravens: Having already ventured to London for a game, the Ravens take a shorter journey next Sunday: to the West Coast for a matchup with the Oakland Raiders.