OWINGS MILLS - It took only three plays for Corey Graham to get his redemption.
Reading the eyes of Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich, Graham undercut a seam route by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders before making a leaping interception to halt a Pittsburgh drive deep inside Ravens territory during the early part of the second half. His subsequent 20-yard return to Baltimore's 38-yard line helped set up a Justin Tucker field goal that pushed the Ravens' lead to 13-7.
Graham was beaten for a 37-yard gain by Sanders just plays earlier, advancing the ball to Baltimore's 40.
The big completion was one of the lone non-bright spots for Graham Sunday night.
Making his second start of the season at left cornerback, playing in place of the injured Jimmy Smith, Graham finished with eight tackles and the interception.
"Corey Graham stepping up and playing to the level he played at says so much," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Graham also had three pass deflections, including one that prevented a Steelers touchdown on the drive that followed the interception, batting away a Leftwich pass to Jerricho Cotchery in the corner of the end zone on a first down play from Baltimore's 11-yard line.
Graham's coverage on Mike Wallace two plays later forced an off-target throw from Leftwich that made the Steelers settle for a short field goal.
Graham also had a big hit with Pittsburgh attempting to drive into scoring position in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, drilling tight end Heath Miller on a deep pass attempt across the middle, dislodging Miller from the ball and preventing a completion that would have advanced the ball near midfield with nearly 30 seconds still remaining in the quarter.
"Corey came up with so many big plays," Harbaugh said. "You talk about the interception and the broken-up passes, the knocking the ball loose on the last drive [and] the play in the corner of the end zone.
"But there were also a number of tackles. He made some tackles in the run game stepping up from his nickel position and making plays. He played really well. ... He wanted an opportunity to prove himself as a defensive back, and he got it, and he did it, and he's continuing to do it."
A Pro Bowl special teams performer with the Bears last season, Graham signed with the Ravens in March for a chance at more playing time on defense than he had received during the first five years of his career, all with Chicago.
Graham saw limited playing time on defense at the beginning of the season, but he stepped into a significant role in Baltimore's sub-packages following Lardarius Webb's season-ending knee injury in Week 6 and later stepped in as a starter for the injured Smith.
"When you have injuries, the next guy has to step up, and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity ... and you've just got to step up and make plays," Graham said.
Graham had three interceptions as a reserve defensive back with the Bears last season, but he started just one game during his final three years in Chicago after starting nine in 2008.
He's started each of the last two games for the Ravens in place of Smith.
"This is exactly what I envisioned," Graham said. "I didn't want it to be by injuries, but I wanted to get out there, show what I could do and hopefully find a way for me to play. However you get in, you have to take it and make the best out of every opportunity you get."