PITTSBURGH — On the longest day of Oniel Cousins' short NFL career, the Ravens right tackle went to class with the Pittsburgh Steelers' LaMarr Woodley on Sunday. What Cousins learned in three hours at Heinz Field might serve him well in the future, but those were painful lessons for the second-year player from Texas-El Paso.
Despite help from tight end Todd Heap and others, Cousins could not block Woodley's path to quarterback Joe Flacco in the second half. Woodley capped a dominating performance with back-to-back sacks of Flacco - through Cousins - on the Ravens' final possession, and the Steelers squeezed out a 23-20 victory.
"I just got to continue to get better," said Cousins, a 2008 third-round draft pick making his third straight start. "I'll learn from this and move on, and look forward to next week."
The Ravens used several packages to either help Cousins or get him away from Woodley, but none was effective in the end. Cousins drew two penalties - for a false start in the first half and a late hit on Woodley in the second - and couldn't keep Woodley from hitting Flacco on a first-quarter interception.
Woodley led the Steelers in tackles with 10 to go with two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed.
Right guard Marshal Yanda said he should have done more to help Cousins through the ordeal.
"I was a little late getting help to Oniel," said Yanda, who had two penalties himself. "Three or four times, I just wish I could have got there a step earlier. That would have helped him out tremendously. We didn't get it done, I didn't get it done. I couldn't helped Oneil better a lot out there."
Curiously, the Ravens didn't consider moving Yanda to right tackle and inserting former right guard Chris Chester at his old position.
"It came up in conversation," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But we haven't practiced [that lineup] all week. Oniel was competing."
Indeed, Yanda said he had spent the whole week working at right guard, and that "we were set up to go playing it that way."
What that meant was that Harbaugh had confidence in Cousins, a second-year player who had been inactive all season until two weeks ago, even though he had Yanda, who started twice at right tackle this season when Jared Gaither was hurt.
For Cousins, there was injury heaped on top of insult. Another player rolled into his left knee on a play late in the third quarter, and reserve Tony Moll came on to take a few snaps. Cousins came back, though, and finished the game.
"I just tried to fight it," he said of the injury. "I felt all right. I was just going out there trying to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Unfortunately, Cousins' best shot on Woodley came after the play and resulted in the late-hit penalty.
"I thought the play was still going," Cousins said. "I was just trying to finish. I'm going to move on, learn from it, and grow from it."