Steelers show Ravens a study in class

October 06, 1997|By John Eisenberg

There is no use dancing around the issue, so let's get right t it:

The Steelers beat the Ravens yesterday at Memorial Stadium because they have tradition, discipline, character, class and all those good things that come with years of playing winning football.

The Ravens lost because they can only dream about having those qualities.

Class? Well, isn't that what it takes to fall behind 21-0, stay calm and come back to win, 42-34?

That's what it takes all right -- the championship class that the Steelers have and the Ravens don't.

Tradition? The only tradition the Ravens have is a tradition of blowing leads, which they had done in 12 of their 15 losses since coming to Baltimore.

Discipline and character? The Ravens didn't have enough to keep playing yesterday after building that three-touchdown lead the first 18 minutes.

Instead, they started strutting around and walking tall, as if the game were over with 42 minutes to go.

The Steelers made them pay for their arrogance, painting a devastating comeback on their foreheads that might not rub off for the rest of the season.

Can they come back from this? Who knows? They need the bye on their schedule next week, that's for sure.

"We need a break," running back Earnest Byner said. "We need some time to reflect."

If they cave in, it all started here, with a defeat that shook them to their core.

"We just didn't play at all in the second half," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "It was just a terrible effort on our part."

It also was a classic exhibition of why the Steelers have played in five Super Bowls and Team Modell has played in none.

"When you're playing a champion, you have to drive a stake through the champion's heart or they get up," Byner said. "That was the difference today. They have a good coach who motivates them, and they have been through the wars. They fight. They bite. They scratch. They keep playing. We can look at them and say, 'That's how you play football.' "

Byner was right, but whether the Ravens really will learn from the defeat is debatable. Many of the players were complaining after the game about the way that thousands of Steelers fans took over the stadium in the second half, which, as amazing as it was, had absolutely no effect on the outcome.

"What we needed to do was shut those fans up," Byner said.

Thank you.

True, the loud waves of pro-Steelers cheers were, indeed, a shameful low point for a town that used to pride itself on being a football town.

But that wasn't what cost the Ravens the game.

Those five touchdowns that they gave up in the second half cost them the game.

Vinny Testaverde's four turnovers cost them the game.

Their offense's inability to do anything after the fast start cost them the game.

The players cost the Ravens the game.

As improved as they are from a year ago, they still exhibit all the qualities of a losing team.

They don't know how to keep a lead, or how to stage a comeback.

They get cocky far too easily for a team that hasn't accomplished anything.

They need to take their work "more seriously as a team," according to Testaverde.

They're simply not ready for serious talk about making the playoffs.

Those were the harsh but obvious realities sinking in after yesterday's loss.

Yes, it was that bad.

They had called this their "statement" game during the week, but they wound up making the kind of statement they hadn't intended to make.

That statement? That they're still the same old Ravens.

hTC Even coach Ted Marchibroda was admitting it yesterday, after arguing vehemently against the idea for the first month of the season.

"This has been going on all the way back to last year," Marchibroda said of how the team finds a way to lose. "We can play with the big boys and run with the big boys, but we haven't quite learned how to beat the big boys. That's our job for the rest of the year."

His use of the words "last year" was Marchibroda's version of waving the white flag in the same old Ravens debate.

He's an intensely competitive guy, but he knew he no longer had any basis for an argument after watching his team take a 35-10 beating in the second half.

Was the turnaround the result of the Steelers' history of success, which includes four AFC Central titles in the past five years?

"I'd have to say so, yes," Marchibroda said. "Actually, I'm not so sure that it's that [the Steelers' tradition of success] so much, as it is that we haven't learned how to beat the front-runners."

Either way, it was the difference between the teams yesterday.

One had the class to keep playing and the character to come back.

The other lacked the discipline to keep playing after building a big lead in a big game, as if such things came easily.

"There's no excuse," Ogden said. "We have guys who know how to win. We just didn't play. We just didn't play at all."

Same old Ravens?

Case closed.

Turning it over

The Ravens were badly hurt by five turnovers yesterday as they lost an early 21-point advantage and were beaten by the Steelers: 6Qtr. Turnover ................ Yd. line* ..... Result

1st Testaverde interception .. Ravens' 43 .... Steelers turnover

2nd Testaverde fumble ........ Ravens' 29 .... Steelers touchdown

4th Testaverde fumble ........ Ravens' 23 .... Steelers touchdown

4th Green fumble ............. Steelers' 8 ... Ravens safety (punter steps out of end zone)

4th Testaverde interception Steelers' 6 ..... .End of game

* Where Pittsburgh took possession.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Miami Dolphins

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Oct. 19, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Series: First meeting

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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