It was as if the Steelers played last week’s game, dominating Tennessee in the first half then giving way to an unsightly second, in reverse. After trailing, 17-7, at halftime, having run only four plays in Baltimore territory, Pittsburgh regrouped — first, by intercepting Jackson at the Ravens’ 23-yard line, and then by re-engaging a lethal short passing game. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished 21-of-32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half.
The Steelers tend to generate pressure so well that if opposing teams want to throw downfield, if they want to use play-action, they would do best to hurry. Against that pressure Sunday, Jackson at times looked tentative, uncomfortable, mixing in nifty passes with clumsy ones.
Jackson had only started against Pittsburgh once before, in Week 5 of last season, and the Steelers treated him as if ordering Waffle House hash browns, covering and smothering and dicing him for five sacks and three interceptions. The early stages of Sunday’s game resembled a continuation of that chaos: Three plays in, Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane swooped in front of a Jackson pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.
Recovering, Jackson and the Ravens opted to run instead. And run. And run. They amassed 179 first-half rushing yards against the A.F.C.’s stingiest run defense, that output nearly evenly divided among Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, whose 1-yard touchdown plunge put the Ravens ahead, 14-7.
Instead of controlling the clock, as the Steelers generally do with their efficient offense, they watched time go by from the sideline. They gained all of 65 first-half yards and went 0 for 3 on first downs.
Even though the Ravens led at halftime, they had sustained two significant losses — edge rusher Matthew Judon, who was ejected for coming into contact with an official during a skirmish, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was carted off with a season-ending ankle injury. By the end of the afternoon, Baltimore had absorbed a deeper loss, in the standings.
But the good thing is — for them, for the Steelers, for football fans at large — the teams meet again in three and a half weeks, on Thanksgiving night.