(Reuters) - The Baltimore Ravens were able to briefly lift the cloud of controversy hanging over both the franchise and the NFL with a dominant 26-6 triumph against a toothless Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday.
The Ravens (1-1) were in total control of their on-field performance but the result remained of secondary interest to the continued fallout from Baltimore’s recently banished running back Ray Rice.
The 27-year-old was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the league earlier this week when fresh video evidence surfaced showing disturbing images of Rice involved in an act of domestic violence in February.
Rice had originally been suspended for just two games prior to the release of the new footage and an investigation has now been launched into the NFL’s handling of events.
On the football field, Baltimore made short work of their AFC North rivals, getting two touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and 152 combined rushing yards from promoted running backs Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett.
“The message was pretty straight forward,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “We have a football game to play. We care about our families. We care about the Rice family.
“I thought our guys handled it tremendously with class, with character and they responded.”
Baltimore seized a 10-0 lead in the second quarter and Pittsburgh (1-1) responded with two field goals before the Ravens closed the game with 16 unanswered points.
Flacco connected with tight end Owen Daniels on both touchdown passes, putting his home team ahead 17-6 on the second strike late in the third. In the fourth quarter, Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker booted three of his four field goals to complete the scoring.
Pittsburgh had opened the season with a nail-biting 30-27 win over Cleveland on Sunday but failed to reach the end zone in Baltimore. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 217 yards but most of that distance came with the game out of reach. He tossed one interception and the Steelers also coughed up a pair of fumbles.
“We just kept getting behind the chains and we can’t do that,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t think it was horrible. You have to give them a lot of credit. They are a good defense.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien