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. It translated onto the field on a night the Steelers converted 5 of 17 third downs and turned it over three times.
“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.
“We just couldn’t get our rhythm,” Leftwich said.
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.
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.View Entire Story
By James A. Lyons
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