Add wind to rain and it could've been Cleveland

From the Sidelines

December 02, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

All that was missing were those icy winds sweeping off the shores of Lake Erie.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers' first game against the Ravens at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore provided the same type of dreary, rainy weather that was so much a part of Steelers visits to Cleveland Stadium over the years.

The 57-degree temperature at kickoff was about 30 degrees too warm, but the rest of the setting was reminiscent of a Cleveland-Pittsburgh game. There was even a large contingent of Steelers fans on hand the way there always was in Cleveland when the Browns were the Steelers' top rivals.

The only disappointment was that there were 12,623 no-shows. The Baltimore fans apparently aren't as hardy a breed as those Cleveland-Pittsburgh fans.

But maybe the Baltimore fans will start to appreciate the rivalry now that the Ravens revived it, ending a seven-game Browns/Ravens losing streak to the Steelers with a 31-17 triumph.

For once, the Ravens made the game-winning plays they hadn't in previous weeks, ranging from Derrick Alexander faking out Rod Woodson to Eric Turner knocking down a critical fourth-quarter, fourth-down pass. The result was they didn't blow a second-half lead this time.

This time, the Ravens even got a break from another controversial call that has become standard in their games.

A look at the highlights and lowlights of the Ravens' biggest win:

Hero: Alexander caught seven passes for 198 yards and juked past both Woodson and Darren Perry for big gains. He also made the 44-yard second-quarter catch -- or at least the officials said he did -- on the game's most controversial play that set up the touchdown that put the Ravens ahead 21-10.

Goat: Quarterback Mike Tomczak showed he's not likely to take the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Once the Ravens got the lead and took Jerome Bettis out of the game, Tomczak couldn't bring the team from behind against a Ravens team noted for blowing leads. He misfired on his last six passes.

Former Steeler I: Eric Green caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and then appeared to taunt the Steelers' bench. But he said he was only jawing with his good friend, Greg Lloyd. He said he was at the Monday night game in Miami featuring his two former teams -- Steelers and Dolphins -- and rooted for the Steelers.

Former Steeler II: Bam Morris, who was at the Steelers' hotel to greet his former teammates when they arrived Saturday night, said the Steelers asked him, "Are you ready for a whipping?" But it was Morris who did the whipping, running for 100 yards on 28 carries after being held to a total of 122 yards the last two games.

Vinny file: Vinny Testaverde underthrew Green in the end zone, lofting the ball into the arms of Perry for a second-quarter interception, but came back to lead the team on touchdown drives on the next two series. He went on to have his sixth three-touchdown passing game of the year.

'Bus' stalls: Bettis ran 11 times for 57 yards in the first quarter, but was held to 48 yards in 13 carries the rest of the game as the Ravens finally figured out that if they jammed the line of scrimmage, Tomczak wasn't going to beat them.

Goal-line stand: The Steelers had the ball on an 18-play drive in the first quarter, but came away with only a field goal when the Ravens stopped Bettis three times from the 3. On third-and-goal from the 4, the Steelers went with a Bettis run instead of a Tomczak throw and Bettis was stopped for no gain.

Curious call: After running Bettis on third-and-goal from the 4 in the second quarter, Pittsburgh's Tomczak threw on third-and-one at the Steelers' 36 in the third quarter. Antonio Langham covered Ernie Mills, the pass was incomplete and the Steelers had to punt.

Key play: Eric Turner, one of the team's high-paid players who hadn't made big plays in recent losses, knocked down the fourth-down pass to Andre Hastings in the fourth quarter that wrapped up the victory.

Zebras: This week's officiating controversy came when Alexander lost the ball after tumbling to the ground in the second quarter. The first call by back judge John Saracino was a fumble recovery by the Steelers' Perry. After a conference, they gave Alexander a 44-yard catch. "It wasn't a question of overruling," referee Red Cashion told a pool reporter, even though it appeared to be. Cashion said field judge Bill Schmitz ruled Willie Williams touched Alexander when he was down. Otherwise, it would have been a fumble.

Good type of holding: Rookie guard Jonathan Ogden caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on a tackle-eligible play. Two other linemen, Herman Arvie and James Jones, have caught touchdown passes for the Ravens this season.

Looking ahead: The Ravens go to Cincinnati on Sunday for their third division rematch of the year. They're 1-1 in rematches, losing a second game to Jacksonville and beating Pittsburgh yesterday.

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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