PITTSBURGH - Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa ended his career downtrodden, a mood directly related to the outcome of his final game.
The Steelers beat the Ravens, 27-10, in an AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field yesterday, and in the process sent one of the NFL's most recognizable players - who's normally anything but down - into retirement.
Siragusa said that the finality had not hit him yet, expressing more disappointment in how the Ravens played.
"You do something your whole life and it comes to an end. It's tough, especially going out like this," Siragusa said. "I started my career here in Pittsburgh as a Pitt Panther, and unfortunately I've got to leave here."
Siragusa spent five seasons with the Ravens after seven with the Indianapolis Colts. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent and eventually earned a reputation as one of the league's best run stoppers.
Siragusa was a major reason the Ravens went 50 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
He was successful before signing with the Ravens, but there is no question his popularity skyrocketed after the Ravens won the Super Bowl last year.
"Last year, we just had things go our way," Siragusa said. "You've got to be a good team but you need a little bit of luck, also. We gave it our best shot.
"I don't want to sit here and cry and say, `Oh we should have won.' We shouldn't have won. We definitely gave up too many big plays and gave up too many points as a defense. Offensively, we didn't get much done. The rest is history."
Sharpe's fuzzy future
Will Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, who also never met a microphone he didn't like, join Siragusa and retire?
Sharpe said he would be more certain of his future later this winter, but the wear and tear of 12 years has taken its toll.
"Right now, if I need to make a decision, and [in] some way I could have a crystal ball that said, `Shannon, it's going to happen just like it did this year,' I'd just walk away," said Sharpe, whose NFL record of being on the winning side in 12 straight playoff games came to an end.
"I don't feel I can dedicate myself and come back in the shape I need to come in and perform, and have it end like this. I did all that, [spent] all that money getting in shape, basically for nothing. ...
"I really have to do some soul-searching, because right now I am a very, very frustrated man."
Starks' plans uncertain
Yesterday also may have been the end of a roller-coaster four-year journey with the Ravens for cornerback Duane Starks, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"We'll see what happens," Starks said. "There is a possibility that I may still be here. It all depends on the numbers. I really have no say-so in that right now. We're $21 million over [the salary cap] right now, so it depends on the decisions they want to make."
Surprisingly, the Steelers nearly duplicated the overwhelming time of possession advantage they had in the teams' last meeting.
Pittsburgh held the ball for 40:45, just 20 seconds fewer than in its 26-21 win in Baltimore on Dec. 16.
"You are not going to beat anybody in a championship-caliber atmosphere when you can't produce more than that kind of time of possession," coach Brian Billick said.
As their search for a coach enters a third week, the Carolina Panthers might interview Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the Charlotte Observer reported.
New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox still appears to be the leading candidate, the newspaper reported. The Panthers interviewed Fox, New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy last week.
The Panthers could be waiting for a decision from Dungy, who also has talked to the Colts.
`Bus' takes detour
Jerome Bettis' anticipated return for the Steelers hit a snag when his leg went numb after taking a medication administered by team doctors for the groin injury that had kept him sidelined for the past six weeks.
Bettis, who rushed for 1,072 yards this season, took the medicine shortly before the game, but it wouldn't wear off for five hours.
Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Amos Zereoue ran the ball well enough to keep the Ravens' defense honest. Zereoue, who rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries in the teams' last meeting, had runs of 12 and 7 yards on his first two carries and pretty much answered the question of how Pittsburgh's rushing game would fare without Bettis.
Zereoue said he was shocked by Bettis' absence, but also got a pre-game pep talk from the veteran.
"You're feeling down for Jerome," said Zereoue, who ran for two touchdowns and combined with Fuamatu-Ma'afala for 93 yards. "But after that, you recognize that you don't spend too much time worrying about that - he's telling you that you have to go back and get the job done."
Bettis hasn't played since Dec. 2 but is expected to play in the AFC Championship here next weekend against New England.