Justin Forsett earned right to start Thursday

BALTIMORE -- No one asked Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh whether Justin Forsett is going to be his starting running back Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe it's not even a question at this point.

After the Ravens benched Bernard Pierce in the second quarter for fumbling deep in his own territory, Forsett capitalized on the opportunity by running for 70 yards on 11 carries.

To put it in perspective, Forsett averaged 6.4 yards per carry and Pierce's longest run was 6 yards. The Ravens have to go one more game without the suspended Ray Rice, and Forsett earned the right to get his first start since 2010.

"Justin did a great job," Harbaugh said. "He has been playing that way all since he got here, all through offseason and training camp. He proved it in the game."

Unlike Pierce, Forsett showed more elusiveness and burst when he got to the edge. That was apparent on his 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which cut the Ravens' deficit to 15-7.

Taking a pitch on third-and-3, Forsett followed the lead blocks of tight end Dennis Pitta and right tackle Rick Wagner before accelerating past two Bengals defenders to reach the end zone.

Does Forsett think his performance will impact his playing time going forward?

"Like I said, you hope so. But in this league, you can't take anything for granted," said Forsett, who had six carries all of last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. "You have to string things together. Anybody can have one good game and have success. But you have to put a couple of them together."

It was an abrupt exit for Pierce after he fumbled for the first time in his career. He was stripped by linebacker Vontaze Burfict at the Ravens' 20-yard line. The Bengals converted that turnover into their fifth field goal, which increased their lead to 15-0.

"We're not too enamored with fumbles," Harbaugh said. "It's not what we're looking for from our running backs."

Pierce stood behind offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for the rest of the game with his helmet on. But he never got another snap.

"[Harbaugh] said, 'Being a running back in this league, if you're trying to stay in this league, you can't fumble the ball," Pierce said. "And I agree with him 100 percent."