The Baltimore Ravens won't apologize for beating the Pittsburgh Steelers without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben or no Big Ben, going into Pittsburgh on Sunday night was a worthy challenge for coach John Harbaugh's team. The Ravens rose to that challenge in a 13-10 win.
"They hate us. We the one team in the NFL they don't want to lose to, especially here," linebacker Terrell Suggs told NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "We just embrace the moment, we love being in the lion's den and we expect a 12-round heavyweight fight. We gonna slug it out with them."
This was the type of physical, hard-hitting game that's come to define this great rivalry. Poor Byron Leftwich will have trouble getting out of the bed in the morning after the beating he took. He's not alone, either.
Leftwich wasn't terrible -- his 31-yard touchdown scramble on the game's opening possession was a remarkable sight -- but he did nothing to help Steelers fans forget Roethlisberger, who must have found it hard to watch from the sideline.
You can argue Leftwich -- who was visibly hurting -- had no business being on the field for the Steelers final possession. Then again, backup Charlie Batch doesn't cut the figure of a promising option in 2012.
In a game like this, you can usually point to one play that made the difference. Jacoby Jones was responsible for that game-changer on Sunday -- his touchdown on a 63-yard punt return put the Ravens ahead for good late in the first quarter.
The Ravens stepped up on defense and special teams, making up for an offense that continued to struggle on the road. Joe Flacco didn't turn the ball over, but managed just 164 yards through the air. Running back Ray Rice finished with just 40 yards on 20 carries. Torrey Smith, who has had some nice moments in this rivalry, had one catch for 7 yards. The Ravens still survived, which says a lot about other phases of the their game.
Taking a step back, the Ravens now find themselves in great position to successfully defend their AFC North crown. At 8-2, they have a two-game lead over the Steelers, who come to Baltimore for a rematch in just two weeks. If the Ravens can hold serve at home, the Steelers will be forced to play for another wild-card berth down the stretch.