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Published: Tuesday, 11/8/2011

Sweep of Steelers gives Ravens edge in division

Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood (96) tackles Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) during the second quarter Sunday. Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood (96) tackles Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) during the second quarter Sunday.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The tangible benefit of Baltimore’s thrilling comeback win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was even more significant than the emotional lift it provided.

That’s because Sunday night’s 23-20 victory enabled the Ravens to complete a sweep of Pittsburgh and clinch the No. 1 tiebreaker between the two division rivals: Head-to-head results.

“I haven’t thought about the psychological implications of it, but it might be a plus,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “The mathematical implications are definitely there. But it doesn’t mean much if you don’t win your next game, and your next game, and your next game.”

The Ravens (6-2) are only halfway through their schedule, and much can happen between now and the Jan. 1 finale against Cincinnati.

This much, however, is certain: If Baltimore and Pittsburgh finish tied, the Ravens get the nod.

The Ravens and the Steelers finished tied atop the AFC North last season, but Pittsburgh was awarded the crown because of a better conference record, leaving Baltimore with a wild-card berth. So when the teams met in the postseason, the Steelers played at home and escaped with a 31-24 victory.

If Pittsburgh and Baltimore have the same record this season, the Ravens will get the nod.

“I’m really excited about this win,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “What this really means to me is that we are 6-2, we beat Pittsburgh two times, and we put ourselves in good position to win the division.”

Flacco engineered a 92-yard drive in the closing minutes to bring the Ravens back from a 20-16 deficit. That, combined with a 35-7 rout of Pittsburgh in the season opener, gave Baltimore its first sweep of the Steelers since 2006.

“We can put the Steelers behind us now,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “Nobody gave us a chance; everybody thought the first game was a fluke. So we had to come in here and prove everybody wrong once again and prove that we were the better team. We want to continue to get better and win the AFC North.”

Baltimore next faces Seattle (2-6) on Sunday.

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