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Old 01-15-2011, 11:54 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' defensive stand in second half shuts down Ravens

Steelers' defensive stand in second half shuts down Ravens
By Bob Cohn
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Heinz Field was a lively place at the start of Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the third meeting of the season involving these long-standing and bitter rivals. But by halftime the stadium had become sullen and still. The Ravens led by two touchdowns, a thoroughly unacceptable occurrence for most of the 64,879 in attendance.

"To be down 14 against a great defense like that, the odds are against you, really," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Fortunately, we didn't quit."

Mainly, the defense brought them back. The Steelers hounded the Ravens into three turnovers and five sacks three by James Harrison in the final 30 minutes to transform the game, and themselves, in their 31-24 win over Baltimore.

"I just know when we came out in the second half, we made enough plays to have an impact," Keisel said. "And that's what great teams do."

It was a good day all around for the nine-year veteran, who learned beforehand that he was picked to his first Pro Bowl as a late replacement. The crowd got the news just after the Ravens drove 68 yards in 10 plays to tie the score in the first quarter after the Steelers had taken a 7-0 lead. The drive actually covered 78 yards because of a penalty on the first play.

Stroking his flowing, lumberjack's beard, Keisel joked that the timing of the announcement might have been better. "How could they do that after we scored," he said.

He gladly accepted the honor, saying it was a long-sought goal. But like anyone in the playoffs, he said he would prefer to be a no-show. If you play in the Pro Bowl it means you don't play in the Super Bowl, which is the following week.

"I'd rather not go," he said. "I want to get that pinky ring, you know what I'm saying? I'd love to get (three) Super Bowl rings."

The prospects seemed bleak at halftime, but the Steelers eliminated the mistakes that created their difficulties and smothered the Ravens, who gained all of four yards in the third quarter.

"Nobody's head was down (at halftime)," second-year defensive end Ziggy Hood said. "In fact, I saw more smiles than anything."

With Hood replacing injured veteran Aaron Smith, who suffered a torn left triceps on Oct. 24 and has yet to return, the defense has remained sturdy.

"Ziggy grew up a whole lot today," veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton said.

"Fortunately for us we've got some good, young players who are big-time ballers," Keisel said. "Ziggy, I can't say enough about the kid. I'm proud of him."

After Baltimore's first quarter touchdown drive, which ended on Ray Rice's 14-yard run with 1:20 left in the quarter, the Ravens managed just 58 yards the rest of the game, 28 in the second half.

No one expected the Ravens to run much on the NFL's top rushing defense. But the Steelers constantly hounded quarterback Joe Flacco. His top two wide receivers, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, combined for one reception for minus-2 yards even though Steelers starting quarterback Bryant McFadden left the game in the first quarter with a hip injury.

Flacco completed 16 of 30 passes for 125 yards, one touchdown and one interception to go with the five sacks.

"The guys rattled the quarterback a little bit," Hampton said. "You do that, no quarterback's gonna do anything."

Bob Cohn can be reached at rcohn@tribweb.com or 412-320-7810.
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