By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — 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 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. If the Ravens lose that one, it will take the edge off the win over Pittsburgh.
“At the end, it’s how many wins you have compared to how many wins somebody else has, and then the tiebreakers come in at that point,” Harbaugh said. “You just have to keep stacking wins.”
Harbaugh was in excellent spirits Monday following one of the biggest wins of his career as Baltimore’s head coach.
“You go up there and you win in that environment, against that team, who we have so much respect for, in that manner — yeah, it was up there, way up there,” he said.
After the game Sunday, in defending Flacco against those who have criticized the quarterback, Harbaugh quoted Teddy Roosevelt.
Harbaugh explained Monday that he memorized the speech in sixth grade, then rattled it off at length to the media. He paused midway through to collect his thoughts before finishing with a flourish.
Like the Ravens at the midway point, he was very good — but not quite perfect.
Our “record could be better; it could be worse,” he said. “We’ve won some big games against some good teams, especially some AFC teams. And we’ve let some slip away that we shouldn’t have.”
Even though the Ravens have lost to Tennessee and Jacksonville, it’s tough to complain about a season that thus far includes two wins over Pittsburgh and victories over the New York Jets and Houston Texans.
“We’re at the halfway point, and we put ourselves in a good position,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “We got a tough west coast trip, and if we don’t go out and play well next week we’re just going to put ourselves back in a hole.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)