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Ravens shut down Leftwich, Steelers 13-10

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Ravens shut down Leftwich, Steelers 13-10

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Baltimore Ravens shut down Byron Leftwich, and Jacoby Jones supplied the offense they needed to grab control of the AFC North.

Jones returned a punt for a touchdown, Justin Tucker kicked two field goals and Baltimore beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10 on Sunday night in another slugfest between two of the NFL's biggest rivals.

The Ravens (8-2) moved two games in front of the Steelers (6-4) by shutting down Pittsburgh's offense, which sputtered without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Leftwich, making his first start in more than three years, completed 18 of 39 passes for 201 yards and an interception. He ran for a score but was also sacked three times.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco wasn't much better, completing 20 of 32 passes for 164 yards, but the Ravens didn't need Flacco to dominate to beat the Steelers for the third straight time at Heinz Field.

The Steelers fell to 0-5 against the Ravens since 2005 when Roethlisberger doesn't start. The two-time Super Bowl winner is out indefinitely with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib.

Leftwich was looking for his first win as a starter since Oct. 8, 2008, a span of 2,234 days. He'll have to wait at least seven more after the Ravens pounded him relentlessly in the second half.

The 32-year-old Leftwich took a series of shots, none more painful than a blindside sack by James Ihedigbo that forced Pittsburgh doctors to check him out for a rib injury.

Baltimore's offense struggled against the NFL's No. 1 ranked defense. Ray Rice finished with just 40 yards on 20 carries but it didn't matter.

The Ravens ran out most of the final 4:33 behind Rice and a pair of Pittsburgh penalties. The Steelers could do little to stop the clock after Leftwich burned two timeouts in the span of two plays during a late third quarter drive.

That drive ended with a 22-yard Shaun Suisham field goal that drew the Steelers within 13-10. They would get no closer, as the efficient, clock-chewing machine offensive coordinator Todd Haley built around Roethlisberger crumbled.

The Ravens aren't quite the snarling, intimidating force they have been in years past. 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.

Lewis made the trip anyway, giving his teammates a needed emotional lift in the locker room.

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 the team's current franchise standard bearer.

Roethlisberger insisted all week the offense wouldn't change with Leftwich under center and offered to do everything he could to help Leftwich keep Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak alive.

Clad in a gray sweatsuit, his right arm in a sling to protect his busted right shoulder, Roethlisberger spent the night as the highest paid assistant coach on the field.

For a fleeting moment, it worked.

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.

Baltimore moved in front 13-7 in the third quarter on Tucker's second field goal, more than enough to lift the Ravens to their 12th straight AFC North victory.

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Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

The NFL announced today that tight end Darren Waller of the Baltimore Ravens would be suspended for a year or longer for his second violation of the substance abuse policy.

Waller was a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech who served a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season for a substance abuse violation. After returning from his suspension last year, he posted 10 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role.

After his 2016 violation, he was quoted as saying [via Ravens.com]:

“There were other personal issues, and [marijuana] was the one thing I always turned to,” Waller said. “It was just about finding more positive outlets for me to do, like talking to people about it and things like that. I’m definitely at a better place with that now.”

Unfortunately for the Ravens, he will miss the 2017 season and potentially longer after the latest violation. It leaves the Ravens down two tight ends from last year after Dennis Pitta was released earlier this month after re-injuring his hip.

MORE RAVENS: Zach Orr considering coming out of retirement

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Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

In January of 2017, former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr took the podium at the team's training facility alongside head coach John Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, to announce he would be retiring from football at the age of 24.

Why? Orr suffered a shoulder injury during their week 16 game against longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, which shed light into a condition he's had since birth.

He had a routine MRI, but the Ravens training staff suggested a full body CAT scan as well. The CAT scan reveled Orr had a congenital back/spine condition where one of the upper vertebra isn't totally formed causing there to be an opening. Less than 1 percent of people are born with such a condition and he wasn't aware of it until he suffered this injury.

Doctors told Orr he was at risk of paralysis or even death if he played with such a condition. He also would have never been able to pass an NFL physical, ultimately forcing him to retire.

During his press conference, Orr said this,

"If there's some miracle way where I can play the game, I promise I'd be the first one to grab my cleats again, start back training and try to find a way to get back out there," Orr said.

Well, fast forward to today and it seems that miracle may have happened.

NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo told Good Morning Football that after getting a second opinion from doctors, and receiving positive news, Orr is considering a return to the NFL.

"I had my mind made up. I was like man, the doctors told me I was done. This is a serious issue. So I'm going to leave it alone. But I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just go check out and seek out some more opinions and things like that and come to find out my condition, it is rare – .01 percent of the people have what I have – but there's no actual evidence or facts that I'm at a higher risk than any other player. And it's actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have that returned to play with no problems."

The doctors' real concerns would be if someone with Orr's spinal condition played with a herniated disk. He did suffer from herniated disks last season, but that injury has since diminished. 

MORE RAVENS: 2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

If Orr does decide to get back into the NFL, getting signed could be pretty easy. 

When he announced his retirement, he never filed for retirement papers and the Ravens never placed him on their reserve/retired list because they never thought he would play again.

Because of this, Orr is considered an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a team right away. 

Orr had his best season in 2016, where he lead the Ravens in tackles with 133. It's been reported that eight teams have reached out to the linebacker since his announcement and that he will be meeting with the Lions on Thursday.