BALTIMORE (AP) — Going up against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, Ben Roethlisberger showed his versatility, grit and ability to bounce back from injury.
He also proved his own theory: The only unit capable of stopping the Pittsburgh offense is, well, the Pittsburgh offense.
Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, ran for a score and put up an unexpected left-footed punt to help the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-16 Sunday.
James Conner rushed for 107 yards and caught a TD pass for the Steelers (5-2-1), who have won four straight since falling to the Ravens at home on Sept. 30.
Pittsburgh is averaging 31 points a game during its winning streak. Against Baltimore, the Steelers rolled up 395 yards, converted 10 of 16 third-down plays and held the ball for 36½ minutes.
“We feel that we can do what we want to do,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve got roadblocks, which are great defenses on other teams, trying to stop us, but we’ve always said — and no disrespect to other teams — they don’t stop us, we stop ourselves.”
That didn’t happen Sunday. Pittsburgh did not commit a turnover, and Roethlisberger went 28 for 47 for 270 yards. His 1-yard run made it 20-6 in the third quarter, and the 36-year-old showed his determination by missing only one play after being flattened during a sprint from the pocket with just over 13 minutes left.
“Ben just got the wind knocked out of him,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
The Ravens (4-5) scored only one touchdown in their third straight defeat, managing two field goals in the first half while falling behind 14-6. Baltimore had converted 72.4 percent of its red zone opportunities into TDs — the fourth-best percentage in the NFL — but on this day a 1-for-4 performance didn’t cut it.
“To hold those guys to field goals in the first half when they were down there was significant,” Tomlin said.
Pittsburgh opened the second half with a drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended with a 1-yard plunge by Roethlisberger. The conversion sailed wide to the right, keeping the score at 20-6.
Down by two touchdowns and facing a potential two-game deficit in the AFC North, the Ravens reacted. Joe Flacco completed six passes in a 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Collins .
The defense followed by forcing the game’s first three-and-out, but the Baltimore offense failed to sustain the momentum.
After the Ravens punted. Roethlisberger was collared from behind by Za’Darius Smith and remained on the ground for several minutes. Joshua Dobbs came in, completed a 22-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, then gave way to Roethlisberger.
“That was a huge play,” Roethlisberger said of Dobbs’ first-down toss.
The drive led to a field goal for a 10-point cushion with 8:26 remaining.
Baltimore got another field goal to get within a touchdown with 5:23 to go, but never threatened thereafter. It was not at all the way the Ravens wanted to enter their long-awaited bye week.
“We’ll go into our bye week trying to get rested up, trying to get healthy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll try to come out swinging the last seven games and find a way to make the playoffs.”
In the first half, Roethlisberger threw 29 passes and showed his kicking prowess as Pittsburgh took control.
With the Steelers facing a fourth down from the Baltimore 38, Roethlisberger lined up in shotgun formation and popped up a 27-yard punt — his seventh career kick.
Eric Weddle drifted back to catch the kick and took it back 18 yards, perhaps the only disappointing aspect of Big Ben’s day.
“It would have been good if Weddle didn’t go back and catch it,” Roethlisberger lamented. “It would have been inside the 5, for sure.”
The Ravens then settled for a field goal one play after Flacco failed to see wide-open Lamar Jackson on the right side near the end zone. Jackson, a rookie quarterback who’s been used in a variety of ways, went in motion on the play and was left uncovered.
Roethlisberger put Pittsburgh ahead with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Conner, and the Steelers made it 14-3 on a 6-yard TD catch by Antonio Brown.
Steelers: None reported.
Ravens: Starting offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back) were on the inactive list. … CB Tavon Young hurt his right ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return.
TRIBUTE TO SYNAGOGUE VICTIMS
Roethlisberger wore cleats emblazoned with a Star of David in response to the late-October shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Star of David was in yellow and served as the upper part of the Steelers logo. There were also the words, “Stronger Than Hate” on each shoe.
Roethlisberger and his wife are friends of Michele Rosenthal, a former team employee. Two of Rosenthal’s brothers were among the 11 killed in the attack.
Conner has 10 touchdowns , most by a Steelers player through eight games since 1950. Brown has nine TD catches, a team record through eight games.
Steelers: Host Carolina on Thursday night.
Ravens: Bye, followed by home game vs Cincinnati on Nov. 18.