Halftime notes as Ravens lead Steelers 9-6

PITTSBURGH - It is me, or has this AFC North battle looked eerily similar to the SEC tussle between Alabama and LSU last night?

Both primetime showdowns have been defensively dominated, low-scoring and have featured a missed field goal or two.

In this one, the Ravens lead the Steelers 9-6 at the half. Here are a few quick-hit notes on the first 30 minutes of play:

- Welcome back, Ben Grubbs. The Ravens' pass protection has been significantly better tonight than it has been in recent weeks, and a large part of the credit for that can probably go to Grubbs, Baltimore's starting left guard. Grubbs had missed the Ravens' last six games because of a toe injury, and frankly, after he was limited in practice all this week, I didn't expect him to play tonight. But he's looked incredibly effective so far, and has done a nice job stabilizing was has been a porous offensive line in his absence.

- This is what we'll get from Torrey Smith at this point in his career: big-time catches deep down the field, and incredibly frustrating drops on passes that hit him square in the hands. He's had his share of both tonight. The rookie out of Maryland has promise, but he's still very much a work in progress.

- Remember how often the Ravens got to Ben Roethlisberger in that Week 1 beatdown in Baltimore? They were in Big Ben's face all night, sacking him four times, forcing two Roethlisberger fumbles and making his life hell for three and a half hours. Tonight, it's been a different story. The Ravens have gotten very little pressure on Roethlisberger, and he's had much more time to survey the field and work through his progressions.

- On that note, has anyone seen Terrell Suggs tonight?

- Third-down conversions so far tonight: the Ravens are 7-of-11, the Steelers are 2-of-6. Three of Baltimore's third-down pick-ups have been converted by tight end Dennis Pitta, who is having a nice night.

- Other than that 76-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice which was brought back by an imaginary holding penalty, the Ravens have gotten almost nothing done on the ground tonight. They had just 37 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half, good for 2.2 yards per carry.

- One quick comment on the Ryan Clark personal foul for his hit on Ravens tight end Ed Dickson: Yes, Clark his Dickson in the facemask. But that wasn't what the penalty was whistled for. It was called for a "hit on a defenseless receiver", which to me is just insane. What's Clark supposed to do, just let Dickson run right up the seam and make a clean catch? He has to try and dislodge the ball from the receiver, whether he's defenseless or not. That's a silly rule which needs to go away.

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