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Ravens top Steelers 13-10, control AFC North race

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Ravens top Steelers 13-10, control AFC North race

PITTSBURGH (AP) Terrell Suggs isn't ready to declare the race for the AFC North title over.

Besides, even if it were after the Baltimore Ravens' 13-10 victory over the Steelers on Sunday night, the veteran linebacker knows Pittsburgh still has the upper hand in the rivals' ultimate litmus test.

``They got it where it counts,'' Suggs said. ``That's all that really matters is championships. These little independent battles is good for morale but until we catch them in the ring race ... we'll take the win but we've still got to catch them in that component of the rivalry.''

The Ravens (8-2) took a significant step in that direction by shutting down the Steelers (6-4) and backup quarterback Byron Leftwich. The veteran completed 18 of 39 passes for 201 yards in place of injured starter Ben Roethlisberger. Leftwich ran for a score but also threw a drive-killing interception and was sacked three times.

``We went out there and we tried to make plays,'' Leftwich said. ``Some went our way, some didn't. And it just wasn't enough.''

The rematch comes in Baltimore in two weeks.

``It's like halftime,'' Baltimore coach John 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.

Pittsburgh was a clock chewing, drive extending machine under Roethlisberger. There were considerably more fits and starts with Leftwich under center. The Steelers converted just 5 of 17 (29 percent) of third downs, well below their season average or 49 percent.

``We never found a rhythm,'' Leftwich said.

The Ravens weren't much better. Joe Flacco completed 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.

``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.

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 Justin 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.

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Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

And then there were four.

Four teams remain in the hunt for Super Bowl LI, and this weekend's games showed exactly what it takes to survive and advance this time of year. They also illustrated, quite clearly, how the current Ravens simply don't rise up to that level.

Here are two ways in particular:

* Strong quarterback play

Aaron Rodgers needed less than a minute to move his team into position for a game-winning field goal against Dallas.

Then again, the Cowboys' Dak Prescott needed less than a minute to move his team into position to tie the game moments earlier.

Did the Ravens offense under Joe Flacco this year ever appear capable of pulling off such a feat?

Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns without an interception as the Falcons rolled past Seattle. He averaged 9.1 yards per pass play, above their league-best regular-season average of 8.8. That's what an efficient, potent passing game looks like. The Ravens ranked 26th this year, averaging 6.04 yards per pass play.

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* Playmakers

When Dallas got inside the Packers' 10-yard line in the final four minutes, trailing 28-20, was there any doubt that the ball was going to Dez Bryant? The Packers had to know it. They just couldn't stop it. Bryant reached up with his 6-2, 220-pound frame and hauled in the inside slant that made it 28-26, and then Prescott scored on a quarterback draw for a two-point conversion to tie the game.

Did the Ravens this year ever have such a proven, go-to target near the goal line? If they did, they probably wouldn't have ranked 20th in red zone percentage this year and relied so heavily on kicker Justin Tucker. Too many field goals instead of touchdowns doomed this team.

Aaron Rodgers had to improvise, then made a great throw with an even better catch by Jared Cook to set up the winning field goal. Could the Ravens have pulled off that play this year?

When the Steelers were trying to close out their win over the Chiefs, they opted to throw a pass, knowing an incompletion would stop the clock and possibly give the ball back to the Chiefs. It carried some risk, but Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a game-clinching first down.

The Steelers could have opted to run the ball with Le'Veon Bell, who piled up 170 yards on 30 carries. That's what a commitment to the run looks like.

Brown, Bryant and Julian Edelman all finished with more than 100 receiving yards.

Each of these teams has playmakers, and they all stepped up.

MORE RAVENS: Ray Lewis tells Tom Brady to quit complaining

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AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has created a new firestorm heading into the Patriots-Steelers AFC championship game, by posting a Facebook Live video from the locker room in which coach Mike Tomlin referred to the Patriots as “a--h----s”.

Tomlin was giving his postgame address to the team after the Steelers’ 18-16 playoff victory over the Chiefs.

While Tomlin was speaking, Brown was streaming the locker room scene on Facebook, unbeknownst to Tomlin.

The coach talked about the Patriots having a head start in preparation, because they won their divisional game Saturday night, while the Steelers-Chiefs game did not end until late Sunday night in Kansas City.

“When you get to this point in the journey, man, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin said in the video, which Brown has since deleted from social media.

“Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We just spotted these a--h---s a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f---king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their a--. But you ain’t got to tell them we’re coming.

“Keep a low profile, and let’s get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That’s our story.”

Well, it’s a little late for the Steelers to keep a low profile now, after Brown’s video went viral.

This is why most coaches don’t like cameras in the locker room immediately after games. The statements are candid. The concept of what is said in the locker room, staying in the locker room, is lost.

Now Tomlin, Brown, and the Steelers will have to deal with the fallout. But it will only raise the AFC showdown, with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

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