Always in rush, Suggs caught in speed trap

Raven recovers fumble, but his rumble toward end zone falls yard shy

Ravens 30, Steelers 13

September 20, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The scouts were right about Terrell Suggs after all.

Suggs' speed in the 40-yard dash, a much-talked about topic heading into the 2003 draft, was the main reason he fell to the Ravens with the 10th pick. His slow rumble toward the end zone after a fumble recovery in the Ravens' 30-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday verified his lack of speed, but the fact he had his hands on the ball seconded what Ravens officials always knew about him.

When Suggs is rushing the passer, good things usually happen.

"I keep getting caught," said Suggs, who got caught from behind after a fumble recovery last season. "I need to work on my speed. Forget the offseason weightlifting and conditioning. I need to work on my speed because that is another fumble that I could have taken for a touchdown."

Instead of scoring, Suggs got down to the 1-yard line, and Jamal Lewis scored a relatively easy touchdown one play later for a 20-0 lead early in the third quarter.

Suggs picked up the fumble at the Steelers' 25-yard line after cornerback Gary Baxter stripped quarterback Tommy Maddox on a blitz, knocking Maddox out of the game with an elbow injury in the process.

With many of the players assuming the play would be blown dead because Maddox's arm was moving forward, Suggs alertly picked up the ball and headed toward the end zone. Receiver Hines Ward, though, caught Suggs from behind.

It was the highlight of a day filled with highlights from a Ravens' defense that forced three turnovers and sacked Steelers quarterbacks four times.

Suggs had one of the sacks and also forced an intentional grounding on a third-and-11 from the Ravens' 18 (Jeff Reed then missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt). For a team playing without its most experienced pass rusher in Peter Boulware, Suggs picked up the slack.

"That's Suggs," Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "You can expect that from him. Suggs is a great guy, great player; a Pro Bowl-type player that should have made it last year. He's going to continue to make those plays week in and week out. But he should have got in the end zone."

Ed Reed went on to take the "type" disclaimer off Suggs and pronounce him in the same category as himself, Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister and Boulware, all of whom made the Pro Bowl last season.

It was Suggs, though, who led the team in sacks a year ago, and he appears on his way to duplicating the accomplishment this season.

"I take it upon myself that I got to have a lot of heat on the quarterback," Suggs said. "Pete is definitely missed. I wish Pete was over there because then they would have two speed rushers to worry about. The pressure is definitely on me."

Actually, the pressure was on Maddox and backup quarterback Ben Roethlisberger much of the afternoon.

The Ravens used a variety of blitzes from cornerbacks and safeties to keep the quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. "We're trying to get as many sacks as possible because sacks win games," linebacker Adalius Thomas said.

Maddox finished 4-for-13 for 67 yards, and Roethlisberger threw two interceptions.

Maddox's frustration boiled over at one point and he got in the face of Suggs following the intentional grounding and cursed at him, according to Suggs. Maddox apparently thought Suggs stood over him too long.

"[Maddox] got mad at me, but all I did was get up," Suggs said. "I'm not a dirty player at all."

While he has established himself as the Ravens' best pass-rushing threat, Suggs refuses to believe teams will start game-planning to neutralize him, especially with Boulware out at least three more games.

Suggs figures when teams look at the Ravens, they start with the Pro Bowl players first, and he is still trying to get in that group.

"They don't game-plan me," Suggs said. "I'm on a defense with Ray Lewis. We got Ed Reed back there and Chris McAlister. That's three Pro Bowlers, and Adalius Thomas, that's four. I'm just trying to get my name on that list."

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