Ravens pile on Maddox

Under pressure from fans, QB gets big dose from blitzers, too

Ravens 16, Steelers 13

November 21, 2005|By BILL ORDINE | BILL ORDINE,SUN REPORTER

Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox said he has managed to handle the all-too-personal pressure from overzealous Steelers fans OK, but the pressure from the Ravens' defensive zealots turned out to be overwhelming in a 16-13 overtime loss yesterday.

"They didn't leave anything in the playbook," Maddox said of the Ravens, whose full-throttle rush bottled up Pittsburgh's running game and hounded the quarterback. "They were able to get some pressure and they were able to get my arm sometimes. We knew coming in that it was going to be a feast-or-famine kind of game."

Mostly, the Ravens feasted on Maddox, sacking him six times, forcing a fumble and coming up with a Football Follies interception by Terrell Suggs. Maddox was a mostly ineffective 19-for-36 for 230 yards and had one touchdown pass to go along with the interception.

But even those lackluster stats don't tell the full story of Maddox under siege by a unit that featured eight defenders crowding the line of scrimmage and a variety of schemes that had the Steelers trying to figure out where the next Ravens blitzer was coming from.

"They run a lot of fronts that make us count guys, find guys, find defensive linemen, find linebackers, find their secondary," Steelers guard Alan Faneca said. "And we had to do a lot of that today -- counting and finding guys."

It also didn't help the Steelers' cause that rookie Trai Essex was filling in for injured Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Marvel Smith. But the real problems were caused by Ravens outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, who was an all-purpose menace to Pittsburgh.

"Thomas was, I think, lined up in every position at some point, from free safety to linebacker, blitzing up the middle, so you've got to give them credit," Maddox said.

"They came after us a lot. They kind of stopped the run and the pass at the same time. ... They put a lot of guys in the box," he added. "They knew they only had three [defensive backs] back there so they had to get to me or we would have our shots downfield. We had some shots, but we didn't take advantage of them."

The loss dropped the Steelers to 7-3 to remain tied with Cincinnati for the AFC North lead. It was their second defeat in overtime this season with Maddox at the controls.

So far, the season has been a trying one for the backup Steelers quarterback, who was filling in yesterday for starter Ben Roethlisberger and second-stringer Charlie Batch, who are both injured.

After Maddox threw the key interception in an overtime loss to Jacksonville a month ago, his lawn was trashed. And Maddox's agent and teammates said that the quarterback's children were harassed at school.

Through the personal turmoil, Maddox has remained stoic.

"I've had a lot of support from the people in Pittsburgh and a lot of people from around the country," he said. "[I have] my faith in God and his plan for my life. You know that he's got a plan and a purpose and you just go on with it. It's not easy sometimes and you wish it wouldn't be like that but it is, and you live with it and you just go on."

After appearing helpless in the face of the 3-7 Ravens' pressure most of the game, Maddox rallied Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter to a 13-13 tie on a seven-play, 85-yard touchdown drive.

In overtime, Pittsburgh took the kickoff and moved to the Ravens' 46-yard line but on third-and-four, Maddox was sacked by Tony Weaver. That opened the door for the Ravens' eventual win on Matt Stover's 44-yard field goal.

"Ten more yards and we're in field-goal range," Maddox said of the Steelers' stalled drive early in overtime. "That's what stings."

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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