Ravens, Steelers reverse courses set one year ago

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 27 Steelers 0

November 27, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

The Ravens and Steelers are two ships passing in the night, and yesterday the Ravens leaned out of the portholes and punched the Steelers in the face as they sailed past.

After the Ravens bludgeoned Pittsburgh, 27-0, linebacker Adalius Thomas was asked if he remembered where the teams were a year ago. He laughed and said, "Don't remember. Winning cures everything."

But it doesn't take a long memory to know that the Steelers are defending Super Bowl champs, and that the Ravens ... aren't.

Now, after dominating the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens look like the team with a big, silver trophy in its future, more now than at any other point in this roller-coaster season.

In fact, at 9-2 they look more like that kind of team now than the Steelers did a year ago at this time. And the Steelers, at 4-7, look further away from contention than the Ravens looked last year.

The Ravens didn't just beat the Steelers yesterday, they beat them up.

By about the seventh time Ben Roethlisberger was sacked - that was the one early in the fourth quarter when he got sacked, offsetting penalties were called, the down was replayed and he was sacked again, anyway - you wanted to turn away, like from a 12-car pileup.

The defense gets the accolades that come from a shutout, from a defensive touchdown, from a franchise-record-tying nine sacks. But the players acknowledged quickly that the tone was set by the punishment dished out by the offense, starting with the first drive of the game - "a statement," as Todd Heap repeatedly described it.

That six-play drive featured 4-for-4 passing by Steve McNair to three different receivers for 51 yards, the last 20 for a touchdown to Heap, who got well behind the cornerback covering him, Deshea Townsend. Plus, two short runs by Jamal Lewis in which he made a statement of his own: I'll be here all day, fellas, how 'bout you?

Lewis reiterated that on the next three drives, the last of which was almost comical, with defensive backs bouncing off him and linebackers getting alligator arms when he came through - ending with his fourth touchdown run in two games.

"They were just coming downhill," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "I don't know if we were off-balance or what, but that one drive they had, they just ran it down our throats."

"It wears them down," Lewis said, "and lets them all know, `We came out here to play.' In this game, whoever plays the most physical is going to win. That's how it's been ever since I've been here, and that's how it's been all week [in preparation]."

That Lewis touchdown gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.

From then on, as Ray Lewis put it, "We got to pin our ears back and have some fun." All of them, from Lewis, the future Hall of Famer, to Corey Ivy, who had the game of his life barely two months after suffering a serious kidney injury.

The thing is, this wasn't kind of how the Steelers got to the Super Bowl last season and won it. This was exactly how, with only the names and uniforms changed. More important, this is how the Ravens themselves have won before. (Expect to be reminded of this a few more times before the start of January.)

The Steelers, meanwhile, looked not as if they needed to blow it all up and start over - but as if something drastic should have been done long ago to prevent a debacle like this. Such as, oh, I don't know, sitting Roethlisberger until he was physically and psychologically ready to come back from all the hurts of the offseason and preseason.

That train left the station long ago, but yesterday Steelers coach Bill Cowher had a golden opportunity to temporarily correct that mistake, after Bart Scott slammed into Roethlisberger late in the first half and nearly came out the other side of him.

He missed exactly one play. Cowher left Roethlisberger in to absorb further abuse. For that, with all his years of stubborn, decorated and well-earned success as a head coach, Cowher should have been fired before the bus pulled out of town last night.

Even McNair got to rest the final 11 minutes, because of the short turnaround before the Ravens play in Cincinnati on Thursday. The CBS cameras kept cutting from McNair yukking it up on the sideline to Roethlisberger getting buried, back and forth. It was cruel.

Now, you wonder if the Steelers, one year removed from glory, will rethink and redo everything this offseason the way the Ravens did last offseason. The proof of how well that works stared them in their faces yesterday, making them flinch, on both sides of the ball.

The Ravens are on their way from the depths to the heights. The Steelers aren't on their way to the depths - they've arrived.


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