Just a few weeks ago, Ravens veteran tight end Owen Daniels' status was very much in doubt.
When a chronic hamstring problem sidelined the two-time Pro Bowl selection for the majority of the preseason, Daniels insisted that he knew how his body was responding and was adamant that he would be just fine.
Daniels is looking mighty accurate in his self-assessment. He caught a pair of touchdown passes Thursday night in a 26-6 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a key AFC North game at M&T Bank Stadium.
After absorbing a tough hit in the third quarter, the 31-year-old celebrated by exuberantly beating his chest.
"I think that's just the icing on the top," Daniels said. "We put great drives together. To get us down to that goal line, I just happened to be that guy to score that touchdown. Huge offensive effort, a lot of guys contributing."
Daniels caught his first touchdown pass in the first quarter to open the scoring during the Ravens' key AFC North game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Daniels was left alone in the left corner of the end zone on his 2-yard touchdown catch as quarterback Joe Flacco lobbed it to him after delivering a convincing play-action fake to catch the defense off guard.
Daniels has provided valuable depth behind starter Dennis Pitta with eight receptions for 63 yards through two games. By the third quarter Thursday, Daniels had five receptions for 28 yards following his second touchdown catch from 1 yard out.
"Owen made some tough catches over the middle for me where he got popped," Flacco said. "He held onto the ball, and got fired up."
Daniels was limited to five games last season due to a broken leg with the Houston Texans, catching 24 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
Signed to a one-year, $1 million contract in the spring, Daniels entered Thursday night with 389 career receptions for 4,651 yards and 29 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons.
Daniels' familiarity with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's system appears to be paying dividends.
"I'm very familiar with it," Daniels said. "It made it a lot easier coming in here with coach Kubiak. Knowing the offense as well as I know it, I think it's my ninth year running coach Kubiak's offense. It's kind of nice having guys have to communicate with me, me being the new guy and me being a little bit of a tutor out there. The guys have caught on very well.
"Coach Kubiak likes to run two tight end sets. We did a decent amount of three tight end sets out there and mixed up formations and personnel groupings. The more a defense has to prepare for, the easier it makes it for us. That was kind of the signature of a Kubiak game plan."
Le'Veon Bell has 'got it all'
Ravens middle linebacker Daryl Smith has built a thorough scouting report on powerful Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.
Bell is quickly emerging as one of the top young runners in the NFL.
"Le'Veon is a very tough running back," said rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley, who recorded nine tackles. "He's a powerful runner, and he's got speed and good hands working for him. If you don't square up on him, he'll run you over. I think we did a pretty good job of containing him."
The 6-foot-1, 244-pounder from Michigan State kept the chains moving for the Steelers on Thursday night with seven runs for 33 yards in the first half. That included a dynamic 21-yard run where he punished defenders. He also caught two passes for 22 yards, including a 19-yarder by halftime.
"He's got a lot of things going for him," Smith said. "I respect him a lot."
Bell finished the game with 59 yards on 11 carries and caugth five passes for 48 yards.
"By the way this game was going, we couldn't run the ball that much," Bell said. "So, we really couldn't establish the run like we wanted to."
During Bell's rookie season, the versatile three-down back generated 166 rushing yards in two games against the Ravens last season.
"Turnovers and penalties really killed us," Bell said. "We just need to go back to the drawing board and clean up some things and see what we did wrong."
Asa Jackson injured
Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson left the game in the second quarter with a concussion after starting his first NFL game.
Jackson was diagnosed with a concussion under the NFL concussion testing protocol that involves neurological testing.
"Asa had a concussion, and I don't think it's too major," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Again, you never know with those two things."
Offensive guard Kelechi Osemele sustained a foot-ankle injury, but finished the game and said he was fine afterward.
Jackson started in place of Chykie Brown, who replaced him in the lineup after the injury. Brown was beaten by Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green for the game-winning touchdown on Sunday.
Jackson walked off the field under his own power after being attended to by trainers. He headed immediately inside to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
Meanwhile, Steelers Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown left the game after a crushing tackle by Ravens free safety Darian Stewart in the first quarter.
Brown, who was hurt on an 18-yard reception over the middle and immediately looked shaken up, headed to the locker room with the Steelers' team neurologist. Brown would return, though, to return punts and catch passes.
He has 5,807 all-purpose yards, 261 catches, 3,561 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns for his career in four NFL seasons.
Dumervil flashes old form
When the Ravens' pass rushers went after Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Sunday, they got stonewalled by his blockers.
The Ravens finished with zero sacks and zero quarterback hits in the 23-16 defeat, as Dalton had plenty of time to operate. On Thursday, it was a different story altogether as the Ravens recorded their first sack of the season when outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil tackled him for an 8 yard loss late in the second quarter.
Dumervil would sack Roethlisberger again for a 7-yard loss in the third quarter, the 75th sack of Dumervil's career.
Days prior to the game, Dumervil expressed dissatisfaction with the Ravens' pass rush.
"Yeah, we got to do a better job of trying to get to him," said Dumervil, who had just one tackle in the opener. "Obviously, Big Ben is a difficult guy to get to. We've got our work cut out for us.
"We've got to try to rat-pack him. He's a big guy. He's a talented guy. He can throw on the run. He can shake you off and still make the throw."
Webb sidelined again
For the second consecutive game, Ravens starting cornerback Lardarius Webb was scratched because of a lingering lower back injury.
Although Webb was closer to playing this week after increasing his mobility and flexibility, the Ravens want him to be 100 percent before they put him into a game situation. Webb missed the entire preseason because of the injury that he suffered during the second day of training camp.
The Ravens don't play another game until Sept. 21, when they face the Cleveland Browns, and the team is optimistic that Webb can make his season debut for that road game.
Webb was listed as questionable on the weekly injury report.
Webb had 74 tackles and two interceptions last season, his first year back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in 2012 while covering Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Webb underwent sports hernia surgery after last season, and he has experienced issues with his abdomen and hip flexors.
Besides Webb, the Ravens scratched wide receivers Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Deonte Thompson, offensive linemen John Urschel and Jah Reid, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi and 2013 second-round linebacker Arthur Brown. … The Steelers deactivated quarterback Landry Jones, wide receivers Martavis Bryant (shoulder) and Lance Moore (groin), running back Dri Archer (ankle, knee), offensive lineman Wesley Johnson, guard Chris Hubbard and defensive lineman Daniel McCullers. … Among the sports luminaries attending the game: former Ravens free safety Ed Reed, who celebrated his 36th birthday, NBA player Carmelo Anthony, swimmer and former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa.