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Harbaugh says Ravens 'can get so much better'

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Harbaugh says Ravens 'can get so much better'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens are riding a three-game winning streak and getting significant contributions from some unlikely heroes.

Reserve cornerback Corey Graham helped the Ravens hold off Pittsburgh 13-10 on Sunday night.

Filling in for the injured Jimmy Smith, Graham had an interception and knocked a pass away in the end zone in the third quarter to help hold the Steelers to a field goal. Backup safety James Ihedigbo tallied a crucial sack that forced a punt in the fourth quarter.

Receiver Jacoby Jones, a free agent signing this offseason like Graham and Ihedigbo, returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was Jones' third return for a TD this season, having also run back two kickoffs for scores.

The Ravens (8-2) have received a great deal of help since returning to the football field after their Week 8 bye, which came one week after they were blown out by Houston 43-13. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who went undrafted in 2009, is now leading the Ravens in tackles with 75. In the preseason, there were questions whether Ellerbe would even make the roster.

``The thing I'm most proud about is how hard they played, how physical they were, and how they kept stepping up in a close game,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on Monday. ``It was a classic Pittsburgh game.''

The win gave Baltimore a two-game cushion in the AFC North. Pittsburgh, now at 6-4 for the year, will have a chance at lessening Baltimore's lead in two weeks as both teams will meet again in Baltimore.

But the Ravens are in control of the division, having beaten each AFC North opponent thus far.

``I'm happy right now, 8-2, can't complain,'' Jones said.

The Ravens have looked superb at home this season, averaging 36.8 points per game when they play in front of their home fans. On the road, it's been a different story. The Ravens offense has only scored an average of 16.6 points each outing, making it much more difficult to come away with victories.

But that's what the Ravens have done in three of their five road trips. Baltimore squeaked by the Chiefs 9-6 in Kansas City. The Ravens needed a late score to put Cleveland away 25-15 three weeks ago.

And then on Monday night, Baltimore needed a late stop to walk out of Pittsburgh with a win. There have been plenty of ugly outings on the road for this Baltimore group, though the two recent road wins against divisional opponents have only added to Baltimore's stranglehold on the AFC North.

``We can get so much better,'' Harbaugh said. ``The thing I love about this team is this team understands that. This team is ready to go to work. We're talking about tomorrow and how we're going to get better this week.''

For role players like Ihedigbo, who came untouched on a third down to sack Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich late in the ballgame, being able to contribute a bigger role on defense in recent weeks has been fulfilling.

``That's what I'm here for, whatever I can do to make an impact,'' Ihedigbo said. ``I'm glad I did and helped our team.''

Meanwhile, Harbaugh said Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was not experiencing concussion-like symptoms following Baltimore's win over Pittsburgh. Pitta sustained a concussion in the first quarter of the game after catching a five yard pass. Pitta exited the game for further evaluation and did not return. He'll have to pass mandatory testing before being cleared to play.

Harbaugh also said it is possible that starting defensive end Pernell McPhee plays against San Diego next week. McPhee was held out of the Pittsburgh game with knee and thigh injuries.

``He's a good guy and he's working hard,'' Harbaugh said. ``There was no setback and he's on schedule - very soon. This week is a possibility. Last week, in all fairness, was not a possibility.''

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Depth at running back in draft reduces need for Ravens to trade up

Depth at running back in draft reduces need for Ravens to trade up

Should the Ravens trade up from No. 16 to get an impact running back in the draft?  Not according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.

The Ravens’ need for more playmakers is obvious, and coach John Harbaugh says the offense could use another back to complement Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West.

In his first mock draft, Kiper had Leonard Fournette of LSU (No. 8, Panthers) and Dalvin Cook of Florida St. (No. 12, Browns) as the first two backs off the board, with the Ravens taking Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers with the 16th pick.

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Kiper says the Ravens can get a quality back in the first three rounds, with this year’s draft deep at the position.

“I don’t know that trading up for a running back the grade of Fournette will be high enough to say he’s in that (Ezekiel) Elliott stratosphere,” Kiper said during a recent conference call.

“You have a lot of depth at running back too, with (Christian) McCaffrey, D’Onta Foreman from Texas, and there’s a lot of other backs in this draft that I really like, and of course the Ravens got Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round last year which was a heck of a pick for them. Matthew Dayes from N. C. State, you have Jamaal Williams at BYU, De’Angelo Henderson at Coastal Carolina is an interesting kid. I don’t think there will be a team looking to trade up for the running back this year.”

West led the Ravens with 774 yards rushing in 2016, with Dixon adding 302 yards. However, every other team in the AFC North had a back with more yards than West. Le’Veon Bell (1,268 yards) led the Steelers, Isaiah Crowell (952 yards) led the Browns, and Jeremy Hill (839 yards) led the Bengals.

While the Ravens have other pressing needs like cornerback, wide receiver, and pass rusher, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a running back early.

MORE RAVENS: Ravens' game in London has official date

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League has official date for Ravens' game in London

League has official date for Ravens' game in London

On Friday morning, the league announced the official date of the Ravens-Jaguars game in London.

The Ravens get a Week 3 matchup at Wembley Stadium against the Jaguars.

The Ravens could have had a Week 3 or 4 date against the Jaguars, but the time of the kickoff remains a mystery until a later date.

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