Though the loser would be in last place in the AFC North, the matchup on Sunday night between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens did not lack for drama. Following a bad first quarter, the Steelers responded with 22 points in the second quarter -- the most scored in any single quarter by either team in this rivalry. With strong performances in the second half from wide receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant (and some fighting between linebackers), the Steelers got the 43-23 win and stayed in the hunt for the lead in the AFC North.
Here's what we learned.
1. After dominating the first quarter, the Ravens' defense fell flat.
Following sacks on three consecutive plays against the Steelers, it looked like the Ravens' defense might take advantage of the Steelers' porous offensive line. But, that didn't last long. That same defense then allowed Ben Roethlisberger to slice and dice the secondary and throw both short and long passes for big yardage. The Ravens are No. 23 in pass defense for a reason: they have difficulty covering receivers in space (remember, they allowed Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer to throw for 290 yards in Week 3). Against a quarterback having his best eight-game stretch ever (six touchdowns on Sunday after six touchdowns the previous week against the Indianapolis Colts), the Ravens had another tough day on defense. The Ravens also racked up more than 100 yards of penalties. That's no way to slow down the Steelers.
On offense, the Ravens were anemic. Wide receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Owen Daniels played well, but quarterback Joe Flacco was hassled and harried for much of the game by the Steelers' intimidating pass rush.
2. The Steelers offensive line could be a problem. The offense is not.
Despite allowing three sacks, Roethlisberger and the offense stood tall against a tough Ravens defensive line. Though running back Le'Veon Bell was largely contained on the ground, he caught a touchdown in the air, as did Antonio Brown, Matt Spaeth, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant (who caught two). Both Brown and Wheaton had touchdown catches of more than 45 yards. The Ravens had a more effective rushing game than the Steelers on Sunday, but Pittsburgh more than made up for it in the air.
After slowing down in late September and early October (remember that Buccaneers loss?), Roethlisberger is once again firing on all cylinders. He tossed six more touchdowns on Sunday, with more than 300 yards passing for the fourth time this season. Sure, he didn't quite match his 522 yard performance against the Colts, but Pittsburgh will take it.
3. The AFC North is going to come down to the wire.
After the first-place Cincinnati Bengals -- who will play the Browns on Thursday Night Football -- the margin between AFC North teams is razor-thin. Every team in the division has a winning record, and both the Steelers and Browns have yet to play the Bengals (who beat the Ravens twice). For the Steelers, a shot at the AFC North title is theirs for the taking.