What it means: In a word, everything. The Steelers needed consecutive wins to build their confidence and to stay relevant in both the AFC North and conference playoff picture. They didn’t make it easy on their fans or coach Mike Tomlin, but they gritted out their first regular-season win over Baltimore at Heinz Field since 2009. Emmanuel Sanders nearly won the game with a late kickoff return for a touchdown. After officials ruled he had stepped out at the Steelers’ 34-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger methodically moved the offense down the field and Shaun Suisham won the game with a 42-yard field goal on the final play. Roethlisberger led the Steelers back from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie for the 28th time in the regular season. He also got the better of Joe Flacco, who had directed late drives to beat the Steelers at home in two of the previous three years.
Stock watch: More than a quarter into the season, the Steelers discovered that they indeed have a running game. Rookie Le’Veon Bell rushed for 93 yards, justifying the praise Tomlin lavished on him last week. Bell averaged more than 5 yards per carry in just his third career game and first one against the Ravens while outplaying Ravens Pro Bowler Ray Rice. Bell’s big game allowed the Steelers to finally snap an 11-game streak of rushing for fewer than 100 yards. It also gave them a significant advantage in time of possession.
Playing it (too) safe: The Steelers hadn’t allowed a touchdown in eight quarters, which is why they didn’t get overly aggressive after the Ravens attempted an unsuccessful onside kick early in the fourth quarter. But recent history should have taught Tomlin to go for the knockout blow when he had the chance. After Suisham’s third field goal of the game increased the Steelers’ lead to 16-9, Flacco worked his patented Heinz Field magic. The Ravens quarterback coolly led the Ravens on a 16-play, 73-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark. Flacco completed 9 of 10 passes for 60 yards on the only touchdown drive allowed by the Steelers.
What’s next: The Steelers travel across the country to play at Oakland, where the Raiders are in perpetual rebuilding mode but have given the Steelers problems in recent years. The Raiders have beaten their historic rivals two times in a row in Oakland, including last year, when defensive breakdowns doomed the Steelers to a 34-31 loss. The Steelers have lost three of their last four games to Oakland dating back to 2006. The Raiders are 2-4 and off this week.