PITTSBURGH — John Brown is making Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome look prescient.
The wide receiver caught his third touchdown pass of the season on a 33-yard strike from quarterback Joe Flacco that staked the team to a 7-0 lead with 10:45 left in the first quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. In the second quarter, he turned a deep throw into a 71-yard gain and added a 12-yard grab in the third.
With 116 yards, Brown has his fifth 100-yard game of his career, and his 71-yard reception was the second-longest of his career.
Brown is the first Ravens wideout to post three touchdown receptions in his first four games since Mike Wallace did the same thing in 2016. At the current rate, Brown is on pace for 12 touchdown catches, which would rank as the second-highest total in franchise history and would trail only Michael Jackson’s 14 touchdown receptions in 1996.
Brown, 28, had spent his first four years with the Arizona Cardinals, but a lengthy injury history persuaded that organization to let the 2014 third-round draft pick test the free-agent market.
Three days after free agency began March 12, the Ravens signed Brown to a one-year, $5 million contract. Brown was the first chip in a wide-receiver overhaul that included bringing in Michael Crabtree on March 16 and Willie Snead IV on April 26.
Through the first quarter Sunday night, Brown led the offense in receiving yards with 104 and carried the ball one time for 3 yards, Crabtree was tied with Brown for the team lead in catches with two for 16 yards and one first down, and Snead added one reception for 2 yards.
By midway through fourth quarter, Snead led the team in receptions with five for 46 yards and Crabtree added three catches for 29 yards.
Before the game, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin expressed concern about getting familiar with Flacco’s new targets.
“Crabtree is new, John Brown is new, Snead is new, so getting a feel for those players, the division of labor and how they work and work together and how we can work to minimize it — things that you can kind of be familiar with in the series like this — is somewhat new for us,” he said. “So I think that’s probably more of a focus than them spreading the ball around.”
Jefferson’s rare trifecta
Tony Jefferson’s strip of Steelers tight end Vance McDonald and subsequent fumble recovery in the first quarter helped the Ravens strong safety achieve a first in his six-year career.
Jefferson has an interception from the season-opening 47-3 rout of the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same season for the first time in his career. He intercepted two passes and caused three fumbles in 2015, forced two fumbles and recovered two in 2016, and intercepted one pass and caused one fumble in 2017, but had never checked off each category in the same season until now.
Jefferson thought he had the second touchdown of his career and first since a 26-yard interception return on Sept. 20, 2015, as a member of the Cardinals when he returned the fumble 31 yards to the end zone. But officials ruled that McDonald was touching Jefferson when both players were on the ground, giving the offense the ball at Pittsburgh’s 31.
Through three quarters, Jefferson had made six tackles, which ranked second on defense behind middle linebacker C.J. Mosley’s eight.
Alex Collins has now lost two fumbles in four games after he was stripped by Pittsburgh free safety Sean Davis (Maryland) at the Steelers’ 2 and the loose ball was recovered by rookie strong safety Terrell Edmunds in the second quarter. The Ravens running back fumbled the ball four times and lost two of them last season. … The Steelers deactivated safeties Morgan Burnett (groin) and rookie Marcus Allen, offensive tackle Zach Banner, slot cornerback Mike Hilton (elbow), wide receiver Justin Hunter, rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph and defensive end L.T. Walton. … Brown, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and kicker Justin Tucker represented the Ravens for the coin toss, which was won by Pittsburgh. The Ravens opened the game by receiving the ball.