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Ryan Mallett makes memorable Ravens debut in upset of Steelers

BALTIMORE -- Ryan Mallett's debut with the Baltimore Ravens provided a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy season.

Looking decisive and clutch, Mallett led an undermanned Ravens offense by throwing for a career-high 274 yards and one touchdown in a 20-17 upset of the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. It was 30 yards more than he's had in any previous start, and it allowed the Ravens to turn back a Steelers team looking to make a playoff push.

Mallett didn't look like a quarterback who was signed 12 days ago, completing all four of his third-down passes on the opening drive, including an 8-yard touchdown to Chris Matthews. He also didn't look like a quarterback who was out of the league for two months, connecting on passes of 39 and 34 yards on Baltimore's final touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens' fourth starting quarterback in their past six games, Mallett finished 28-of-41 passing and outplayed Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 215 yards and two interceptions.

What it means: The Ravens (5-10), who were double-digit underdogs, continued their dominance of the Steelers (9-6) with a surprising victory. Baltimore has now won five of its past six games against Pittsburgh, and the Ravens completed the third sweep of the Steelers in this bitter rivalry (they previously did so in 2006 and 2011). The Ravens also avoided their first four-game losing streak under coach John Harbaugh.

What were they thinking? Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw lined up offside midway through the fourth quarter, negating a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Jimmy Smith. The Ravens would've essentially sealed the upset with a 27-10 lead. Instead, the Steelers scored one play later to cut their deficit to 20-17.

Fantasy watch: Leading receiver Kamar Aiken remains the most dependable fantasy player for the Ravens. He finished with eight catches for 66 yards. This is his eighth straight game with at least five receptions, the second longest streak in Ravens history. (Derrick Mason had a span of nine in a row in 2006-07.)

Ouch: Aiken appeared to injure his left hand late in the third quarter, but he returned to the game.

What's next: The Ravens finish their season at the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore hasn't won at Paul Brown Stadium since 2011.