Ravens, Steelers clash for control of AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs the past three seasons, have lost three of their past four games to sit at .500 — and yet are upbeat about a crucial game, a visit Sunday from the AFC North leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

FILE PHOTO: Oct 28, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

“Huge game here at our stadium. It means a lot,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve got our season in front of us. We’d all love to have a better record than we do right now – we probably should have a better record – but the record is what it is. So that’s our starting point. That’s where we fight from.”

Baltimore (4-4) is coming off a 36-21 loss to Carolina.

“I don’t know if ‘concern’ is the word. We are disappointed and this is obviously going to be a really tough test for us,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We are going to have to see what we are made of here, see how we rally and come together as a team.”

Flacco is tied for the NFL lead with 42.8 pass attempts per game and Baltimore ranks eighth at 282.6 passing yards a game.

Flacco’s counterpart, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is dealing with a broken index finger on his left (non-throwing) hand, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pointed out that Roethlisberger finished a 33-18 win over Cleveland despite the injury and doesn’t expect it to sideline the quarterback.

Pittsburgh (4-2-1) ranks second with 318.1 passing yards a game, and the Steelers have struck a solid balance with second-year back James Conner, who was named AFC offensive player of the week.

“It’s nice, but the ultimate goal is to be playing in January,” Conner said.

Conner is the first player in team history to rush for two touchdowns in three straight games. He also is still something of a fill-in as Le’Veon Bell continues to sit out because he has not signed the team’s franchise tag tender.

“I think he’s handling it like a professional,” Roethlisberger said of Conner. “The whole Le’Veon stuff can’t be easy, but I finally think he’s not looking over his shoulder. “

The Steelers moved to the top of the division during their bye week based on the Ravens and others losing, and then put down Cleveland 33-18 last weekend.

Baltimore broke away from a 14-14 halftime tie in Week 4 to beat Pittsburgh 26-14.

At the league’s trade deadline Tuesday, Baltimore acquired running back and return man Ty Montgomery from Green Bay for reportedly a 2020 seventh-round draft pick, while the Steelers stood pat despite many calls for them to bring in a cornerback.

Montgomery fell out of favor with the Packers for a costly turnover in a loss to the Rams.

It was thought Pittsburgh might seek an upgrade at corner opposite Joe Haden after Artie Burns was benched from play on defense and only used on special teams against Cleveland, although Tomlin explained that Burns was suffering the consequences of showing up late for a Saturday walk-through. The Steelers made no trades.

Coty Sensabaugh started over Burns against Cleveland but sustained a toe injury. He is day to day and did not practice Wednesday. Pittsburgh offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert missed the Browns game because of a knee injury, but he practiced Wednesday and indicated he is hopeful he will play against Baltimore.

Several Ravens did not practice Wednesday – offensive linemen Alex Lewis, James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman and Ronnie Stanley, safety Tony Jefferson, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey, and linebacker C.J. Mosley – but it appeared that several of them have a good shot at playing.

—Field Level Media

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