The Baltimore Ravens took advantage of a Pittsburgh offense lacking the potency of Ben Roethlisberger to grind out a 13-10 win over the Steelers on Sunday, tightening their grip on the AFC North.
The Ravens did not enjoy a spectacularly offensive night themselves but with Steelers quarterback Roethlisberger nursing a sprained shoulder and injured ribs, they did not need one.
The critical road victory put the Ravens (8-2) two games ahead of Pittsburgh (6-4).
"The game isn't the same (without Ben), it's bittersweet," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters of the rivalry between the division rivals.
"I'm glad we won but I wish we would've won with him playing. Hopefully, he'll be out there when we play in Baltimore (on December 2) and we'll duke it out another 15 rounds."
Jacoby Jones lifted the Ravens with a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown, giving the team a 10-7 lead just before halftime, and the defense did the rest in a typically gritty battle.
"We knew we had two kick returns already for touchdowns, and the whole special teams unit kept complaining that we hadn't had a punt return yet," Jones said after recording his third special teams return touchdown of the season.
"All week we emphasized and worked on it and we did a great job of blocking."
Jones's run would turn out to be the defining moment of a game that featured few fireworks and just 200 total yards for Baltimore.
Roethlisberger's replacement, Byron Leftwich, was solid in his first start since 2009 but did not impact the game enough and finished with 201 yards passing and one interception.
Leftwich enjoyed a promising start when he scrambled for a 31-yard touchdown on the game's opening drive but he seemed to be struggling with a shoulder ailment and was later checked out for a rib injury following a big hit.
After Baltimore grabbed a three-point lead by halftime, the teams traded field goals in the third quarter and Pittsburgh's final chance to tie game in the fourth faded with a series of Leftwich incompletions.
"We didn't find the significant play to be the difference and allow us to get out of the stadium with the win," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team saw their four-games win streak snapped.
Pittsburgh held Ravens runner Ray Rice to just 40 yards on the ground but the home team lost a pair of fumbles and did not force a Baltimore turnover.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Peter Rutherford)