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Batch, Steelers stun Ravens 23-20

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Batch, Steelers stun Ravens 23-20

BALTIMORE (AP) If Charlie Batch doesn't start another game for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, the 37-year-old quarterback can take solace in knowing he went out on a decidedly high note.

And if Ben Roethlisberger isn't healthy enough to reclaim the starting job this week, Batch will be delighted to build on his memorable performance Sunday in a 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

With the Steelers facing elimination in the AFC North and trying to avoid slipping to .500, Batch rallied Pittsburgh to an uplifting win over a hated rival. Batch went 25 for 36 for 276 yards and directed a 61-yard drive in the closing minutes to set up Shaun Suisham's 42-yard field goal as time expired.

Roethlisberger has missed three straight games with shoulder and rib injuries, and Batch took over after Byron Leftwich was injured against Baltimore two weeks ago. Roethlisberger is working his way back into form, which means Sunday's game against the Ravens could be Batch's last start this season.

Maybe ever.

``Every game that I go out there, I look at it that way,'' he acknowledged. ``A lot of other people were starting to make a little more of it than maybe what it was.''

If nothing else, it was a redemptive performance. Batch threw three interceptions one week earlier in a loss to Cleveland, and the Steelers committed eight turnovers overall.

``I wanted this opportunity because I played poorly last week,'' he said. ``I wanted an opportunity to come out here and lead this team.''

With Batch leading the way, the Steelers (7-5) kept alive their slim hopes of winning the AFC North and enhanced their playoff chances. Pittsburgh also ended Baltimore's 15-game home winning streak.

``To be able to go on the road and do something that nobody outside of our locker room thought that we could do is big,'' Batch said.

The Ravens (9-3) and Steelers split two games this season, with each winning by three points. Seven of the last eight regular-season games between the teams have been decided by that same margin.

``That was a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore game,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``It's amazing how it works out that way.''

Pittsburgh trailed 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 in the fourth quarter before coming back. Batch missed a wide-open Mike Wallace in the end zone near the conclusion of the first half, but the cagey quarterback more than made up for it after halftime.

The Ravens could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory. Instead, Baltimore had its 12-game winning streak against division foes came to end.

Asked if it was a shock to get beat by the seldom-used Batch, Ravens safety Ed Reed said, ``It's not surprising at all.''

Then he added, ``Maybe a little bit.''

Batch outplayed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who went 16 for 34 for 188 yards and fueled Pittsburgh's comeback by losing a fumble in the fourth quarter.

``I think we missed a couple of opportunities early to really take a hold of this game even more,'' Flacco said. ``I thought we could have put up 30 or 40 points today and we didn't. I think that's a reflection that we hurt ourselves.''

The Steelers gave the ball away three times. The Ravens converted two of the takeaways into touchdowns, and the third - a leaping interception by Reed in the end zone - kept a 20-13 lead intact with 10:59 left.

Pittsburgh got the ball back, however, when James Harrison forced a fumble by Flacco at the 27.

``Guy came around hit my wrist and hit the ball and just got it out,'' Flacco said. ``I wish I could have held on but wasn't able to.''

Batch threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to tie it with 7:24 to go.

The next time Pittsburgh got the ball back, Batch showed his poise with a beat-the-clock march. The key play in the final drive was a 15-yard completion to Wallace on a third-and-7.

After generating only 93 yards in offense in the first half, the Steelers opened the third quarter with a 78-yard touchdown drive to pull even at 13. Batch threw a 43-yard pass to Miller before Jonathan Dwyer scored on a 16-yard run.

Later in the quarter, Batch connected with Emmanuel Sanders near midfield with no defender in sight. But Sanders inexplicably lost his grip on the football after taking two steps, and the Ravens recovered on the Baltimore 37.

The Ravens turned the miscue into a 20-13 lead. Flacco completed a 19-yard pass to Dennis Pitta before Ray Rice took a handoff, veered right, then broke left and outside for a 34-yard score.

NOTES: Pittsburgh CB Ike Taylor hurt his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return. ... Tomlin said FB Will Johnson ``probably has a concussion.'' ... Brown has thrown two passes this season. The other one was incomplete. ... Baltimore missed a chance to go 10-2 for the first time in franchise history. ... Rice's 32nd rushing touchdown broke a second-place tie with Willis McGahee on the team's career list.

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Running back by committee system could be Ravens' best option

Running back by committee system could be Ravens' best option

A running-back-by-committee system could be the Ravens’ best option in 2016. Not only do the Ravens have ample depth at the position, but the incumbent starter, Justin Forsett, will turn 31 years old in October.

Rather than give 200-plus carries to Forsett if he wins the starting job, it might behoove the Ravens to spread the workload among Forsett, Buck Allen, rookie Kenneth Dixon and any remaining backs, whether it be Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, or Trent Richardson.

Running back roles will begin to sort themselves out during training camp, with the first full-squad practice scheduled for Thursday. However, more NFL teams are relying on more than just one back.

During the 2012 season, 23 running backs had at least 200 carries. That number has steadily declined, from 22 backs with 200+ carries in 2013, to 17 backs in 2014, to just 15 backs last season with 200+ carries.

Forsett is just two years removed from his best NFL campaign, when he rushed for 1,266 yards on 235 carries. However, there’s no way Forsett figures to get 235 carries in 2016, and that’s a good thing for the Ravens. For Forsett to be fresh and healthy in November and December, the Ravens will have to be careful not to overwork him.

Allen had a solid rookie season and should push Forsett for the starting job. Dixon is a highly-touted rookie. West is in the best shape of his young career, while Taliaferro wants to prove he can stay healthy after an injury-plagued first two seasons.

Richardson is starting camp on the PUP list with a knee injury, so he needs to return quickly to capitalize on his long-shot opportunity. But even if the Ravens don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, they could still run the ball effectively by making the most of their depth.

RELATED: ​Can Flacco return to 'elite' status?

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NFL reinstates Browns receiver Josh Gordon

NFL reinstates Browns receiver Josh Gordon

Browns receiver Josh Gordon will play in 2016. If he can keep his act together, that is. 

The NFL has conditionally reinstated Gordon and handed him a four-game ban to start the season, according to a Monday announcement. The 25-year-old had been suspended indefinitely for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy, distinct from its performance enhancing drug policy. 

He will be eligible to return on October 3, the day after the Browns play the Redskins at FedEx Field. He will not appear in the Week 2 matchup hosting the Ravens, but will eligible for the Week 10 game in Baltimore. 

While suspended, Gordon will be allowed to attend team meetings. He will also take part in training camp and participate in preseason games. 

The NFL release also included a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell to Gordon. 

As we discussed at our [July 19] meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed. Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, Mr. Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so.

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NFL finds no credible evidence Peyton Manning used HGH

NFL finds no credible evidence Peyton Manning used HGH

The NFL released a statement on Monday in which the league cleared former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after a seven-month investigation to determine if the two-time Super Bowl champion was provided with or took performance-enhancing drugs.

The investigation stemmed from an Al-Jazeera America report in December that listed Manning among the professional athletes to receive shipments ofhuman growth hormones.

The five-time NFL MVP vehemently denied the claims and welcomed the league to investigate the matter.

"Following a comprehensive seven-month investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America, the NFL found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with or used HGH or other substances prohibited by the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances," the league said in a statement.

"The Mannings were fully cooperative with the investigation and provided both interviews and access to all records sought by the investigators."

The Al-Jazeera America report alleged that Manning was sent shipments of HGH to his house under his wife's name from Charlie Sly, a pharmacist who worked at an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis in 2011. Sly was Al Jazeera's key source, but then recanted his statements making the report all the more questionable.

Manning retired from the NFL in February following the Broncos' victory in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers.

Initiated in January, the investigation was led by the NFL’s security and legal teams with support from expert consultants and other professionals. The investigation involved witness interviews, a review of relevant records and other materials, online research, and laboratory analysis and review.

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