Zeier's long wait turns into a forgettable night When backup replaces Testaverde, performance is obscured by mistakes: STEELERS 37, RAVENS 0

Ravens Notebook

November 10, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino | Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF Mike Preston and Chuck Finder contributed to this article.

PITTSBURGH -- Ravens backup quarterback Eric Zeier has waited all year for a shot to play.

His big moment came early in the second quarter, when coach Ted Marchibroda pulled starter Vinny Testaverde after a terrible first quarter in which he threw three interceptions to help Pittsburgh take a 10-0 lead.

Let's just say that, after a forgettable second quarter that featured an interception, an assortment of fumbles and even a tipped pass that hit umpire Bob Wagner in the head, Zeier wouldn't mind starting over.

Zeier looked like a quarterback who had not played since the preseason finale against Buffalo on Aug. 22. Under Zeier, the Ravens' six, second-quarter possessions yielded three punts, an interception and two lost fumbles. All told, he completed two passes in seven attempts for 16 yards.

In Zeier's defense, his first pass bounced off tight end Eric Green's shoulder pads and was picked off by free safety Darren Perry. He returned it 42 yards to the Ravens' 1. Quarterback Kordell Stewart scored on the next play to give the Steelers a 17-0 lead.

Two possessions later, Zeier's first-down pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and struck Wagner. On the next possession, which began at the Ravens' 11, Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd blitzed untouched, hit Zeier from behind and forced a fumble the Steelers recovered. That set up a 22-yard Norm Johnson field goal.

On the next possession, Zeier and center Wally Williams mishandled an exchange, and the Steelers recovered.

It was that kind of night.

No shortage of mistakes

During the comedy of errors committed by the Ravens in the first half, rookie running back Jay Graham committed a trifecta of miscues on one bizarre play.

After Johnson's 22-yard field goal extended the Steelers' lead to 20-0 with 5: 41 left in the second quarter, Johnson angled a kickoff toward the sideline.

First, Graham muffed the kick inside the Ravens' 10. As the ball rolled toward the goal-line pylon, Graham chased it and nearly stepped out of bounds as he scooped up the ball at the 1.

Then the fun began. Graham started inside, then darted outside and ran free down the sideline. Suddenly, the only thing standing between Graham and a touchdown was the kicker. Graham tried to fake out Johnson, who stood his ground and brought the home crowd to its feet with a jarring hit that forced a fumble.

The Ravens recovered to retain possession, but Graham had recorded the most embarrassing moment of his young career.

Embarrassing's the word

Testaverde said embarrassing was the best word to use to describe the loss.

"There's no question it's the right phrase to use and the right words. When I sit here and I'm speechless, yeah, that's what happened," he said.

Testaverde said the hit he got on his ribs early in the game affected the way he threw the ball.

"I just told coach it'd be time for Eric to step in and see what he could do because I wasn't getting the job done," he said.

Testaverde came back in the second half after taking pain-killing medicine.

"The doctors gave some medication to relieve the pain in the ribs and I felt like I'd just give it another shot to see what happens and try to make the best of a bad situation," he said.

"When we lose as bad as we did, it adds to your misery physically. I feel OK, but I'm in a little discomfort right now and tomorrow's the day when it really shows up."

No answer

Testaverde, who has never won at Three Rivers Stadium, had no explanation for the Browns/Ravens problems at the stadium.

"I wish I had the answer. If we did, we'd certainly fix and correct it and come out with something different so we don't play like this when we're here," he said.

Too much of nothing

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who got an uncharacteristic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, didn't want to discuss the game.

"I've got nothing to say. It was one of those days. If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all," he said.

It's nightmare to Siragusa

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said, "It's a nightmare really for the whole team. It seemed like we just never got it going. We didn't give up and we fought to the end. That's the best thing to do in that situation.

"I remember when I was 1-15 with the Colts before we went to the AFC championship game a year or two later. You sort of have to hit rock bottom when you lose this way before you can enjoy every win and know they're hard to come by in this league."

Terp back at CB

The Steelers returned to their starting secondary of the season's first two weeks, returning University of Maryland product Chad Scott to right cornerback and Carnell Lake to strong safety.

Scott, of Capitol Heights, Md., and Suitland High, got his first start since he suffered a high ankle sprain against Washington in Week 2. He finished with five tackles, second on the team, and a team-high-tying three pass deflections.

"It felt good," the first-round draft pick said. "I knew they would try to throw the ball my way. It felt good to break up a couple passes."

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