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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Secretary of Navy weighs in on Reynolds' service, availability for Ravens

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Secretary of Navy weighs in on Reynolds' service, availability for Ravens

The Secretary of the Navy expressed confidence Thursday that sixth-round draft pick Keenan Reynolds will be able to play for the Ravens next season. Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Ray Mabus said there should be ways for Reynolds to fulfill his Navy obligations while pursuing his NFL career.

“If I was an NFL team I would want Keenan Reynolds in my locker room,” Mabus said on the show. “Keenan Reynolds is a great ambassador for not only the United States Navy but the United States military. I’m confident we can work something out so Keenan can do both, play and serve…I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he can do both.”

The Ravens were hopeful that Reynolds would be allowed to play, but said they would abide by whatever decision made by the Navy. Reynolds was a star quarterback at Navy, but will try to forge an NFL career as a wide receiver-punt returner. Reynolds is scheduled to participate in this weekend’s Ravens rookie minicamp.

A precedent for Reynolds being allowed to play has already been set. The Patriots drafted long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round last season, and he played all of last season while also working at a Naval Preparatory Academy in Rhode Island.

Reynolds could be a busy man as well next season, juggling Navy responsibilities with football. However, Reynolds has long dreamed of playing in the NFL, and Mabus’ comments were a positive sign.

Three things to know about Ravens fourth-round pick Alex Lewis

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Three things to know about Ravens fourth-round pick Alex Lewis

Here are three things you should know about Ravens fourth-round pick (130), offensive tackle Alex Lewis.

1. Lewis overcame a bad off-the-field incident in college.

After an altercation with an Air Force cadet that left the cadet unconscious, Lewis was sentenced to 45 days in jail for third-degree assault. Afterward, he transferred from Colorado to Nebraska. After researching Lewis thoroughly, the Ravens felt comfortable enough to take a chance on him.

“In terms of the incident, we vet all of our guys,” said Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz. “It’s out there, people know about it, and we’ve discussed it. Our scouts do a great job of not only talking to the coaches there, but following up with the staff at Colorado as well. And we felt very comfortable after discussing with the staffs at both schools and finding out information from different reports, and then as well as talking to the kid about the incident.”

2. Lewis will compete for a backup tackle spot.

Whether the Ravens keep Eugene Monroe or not, Lewis has a chance to be the backup left tackle if he can beat out James Hurst. Lewis could also become the backup right tackle behind Rick Wagner.

3. Lewis was selected a team captain at Nebraska.

That speaks highly of what teammates and coaches thought of him, and how he rebounded from his past troubles.

Alex Lewis was at grocery store when Ravens tried to draft him

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Alex Lewis was at grocery store when Ravens tried to draft him

Ravens offensive tackle Alex Lewis was tough to reach when the Ravens drafted him.

Lewis was at the grocery store when the Ravens called. That became a problem. The cell phone signal was bad between Lewis and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and Newsome didn’t have much time, with another pick to make soon.

Newsome finally gave up trying to speak to Lewis, and told coach John Harbaugh to call Lewis’ house.

“So I get on the phone with his mom, and I’m going, ‘Is Alex there?’", Harbaugh told reporters when the draft ended.

“And she goes, ‘No, he’s not. May I ask who is calling?’ I’m like, ‘It’s John Harbaugh, with the Ravens.’ She goes, ‘Oh, well how I can I help you?’ I said, ‘Well, we were hoping that Alex would become a Baltimore Raven, and we’re thinking about drafting him. Is he there right now?’ (She said), ‘No, he just stepped out and he went to the store, but he’ll be back in a little while.’ I’m just going, ‘He’s at the store! What do we do now?’ She goes, ‘Now who is this team again?’

Lewis returned from his grocery run a short time later, spoke to Harbaugh, and all was well. It made for a draft experience the Ravens and Lewis won’t soon forget.