OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just hours after a spirited victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was already preparing for another AFC North rival, the Cleveland Browns.
However, Harbaugh did take a moment to reflect on what the 26-14 victory over Pittsburgh meant to his franchise, which had lost three straight games in the heated series.
“It’s a big deal,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “You guys made me admit it last night, but it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal because it’s … The road runs through Pittsburgh the last couple years to win the division. You could start with that. You have to win division games to win the division; that’s the next thing.
“And, it’s the Steelers. And as you said, we haven’t beaten them three games in a row, and three years in a row there, we haven’t beaten them. To go up there and win means a lot to us, and we’re … I do think there’s some confidence that goes with that, but these guys weren’t lacking. Our guys didn’t need a shot in the arm, confidence-wise. They needed a win. We needed a win. We needed to be 3-1. That’s what we really needed.”
The Ravens improved to 3-1 with the victory and are tied for first place in the division with the Cincinnati Bengals. So far, Baltimore has been impressive on both sides of the ball and is poised to end a three-year playoff drought.
The Ravens are ranked fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 30.8 points per game. Baltimore also is second in the league in total defense.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was 28-of-42 for 363 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no turnovers against Pittsburgh. He managed a quarterback rating of 109.5.
However, he said the offense should have put up more points. That will be a key focus against Cleveland, which is allowing 395 yards per game.
“Yeah, I’m frustrated, I really am,” Flacco said. “I feel like we left stuff out there today for sure.”
While the Ravens are playing well, they are not going to underestimate the hard-luck Cleveland Browns and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Cleveland is 1-2-1 on the season, but is just a few plays away from being undefeated.
The Ravens will get a boost against the Browns with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, defensive tackle Willie Henry and veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith expected to rejoin the lineup.
“We have to go to Cleveland, and the Cleveland team is playing really well with a rookie quarterback that’s playing out of his mind right now and we got to figure out a way to stop those guys and win,” Harbaugh said. “In Cleveland, I’m sure the place will be going crazy so, just like this place was going crazy.
“That’ll be our focus, that’ll be the way we’ll look at it. Try to be a better football team next week than we were this week and the thing about these guys is that’s the way they think.”
CB Jimmy Smith can resume practice this week as a roster exemption after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The Ravens are not required to clear a 53-man roster spot for him right away. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that if Smith practices well, he will play Sunday against the Browns.
TE Hayden Hurst, a rookie first-round pick, returned to practice last week but was not active against Pittsburgh. He has not played since undergoing surgery on Aug. 24 for a stress fracture in his foot. Coach John Harbaugh said that team doctors and athletic trainers weren’t comfortable with Hurst returning to the lineup against Pittsburgh after having just one week of practice. Harbaugh said Hurst has a good chance to play this week.
DT Willie Henry (hernia) could return to practice this week. However, coach John Harbaugh said Henry’s availability for the game against the Browns depends on a positive prognosis from the team doctors. Henry had a breakout season in 2017 but has yet to play this year.
DT Michael Pierce (foot) returned to the lineup Sunday night against Pittsburgh. He was limited to 17 snaps and did not register a tackle. Pierce missed the first game of his career Week 3 against Denver.
LB C.J. Mosley (knee) was able to play Sunday night against Pittsburgh. He played 63 snaps and led the team with eight tackles. Mosley calls plays for the defense. However, safety Eric Weddle had taken over those responsibilities with Mosley out and also called the plays against the Steelers. Coach John Harbaugh has not decided who will call the plays against Cleveland.