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Old 11-27-2006, 05:43 AM   #1
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Default Ravens leave Steelers beaten, bruised, demoralized and without playoff hope

Ravens leave Steelers beaten, bruised, demoralized and without playoff hope
Monday, November 27, 2006

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


BALTIMORE -- The curtains came down hard on the Steelers' season yesterday, a 27-0 walloping by the Baltimore Ravens who are playing the style of football expected from the defending Super Bowl champs.

The Ravens ran their record to 9-2 and stayed in position to earn a top playoff seed in the AFC while burying the Steelers' chance of keeping their season alive.

All that's left after they tumbled to 4-7 is to play out the five remaining games before they try to regroup for next season. And they may have to complete the season without All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who left the game in the third quarter with a sprained knee ligament that will probably cause him to miss two games.

"A very pitiful performance out there today," coach Bill Cowher said. "I accept full responsibility for that. They outplayed us, they outcoached us. It was very disappointing."

The Steelers were never in the game, losing by their biggest margin to the Ravens since the team moved from Cleveland in 1996. Baltimore scored on its first drive and was so in charge at halftime that there was little chance for a Steelers comeback.

By halftime, the devastation was evident everywhere. The Steelers lost 6 yards in the second quarter on offense and were outgained, 215-36, in the first half in yards, 16-3, in first downs, 94-14, in rushing yards and 17-0 on the scoreboard.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a career-high nine times, three short of a 40-year-old Steelers record but tying their most since sacks became an official NFL record in 1982. Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs each sacked him twice. Roethlisberger also threw two interceptions, and Baltimore linebacker Adalius Thomas returned his fumble 57 yards for a touchdown.

"To get shut out like we did is embarrassing," Hines Ward said of the team's worst shutout since 1993, when the Steelers lost to the Rams by the same score.

Not only were the Steelers blanked, but their defense did little to stop the Ravens. Steve McNair completed 18 of 24 passes for 140 yards and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap to end his first series. McNair was barely touched yesterday, never mind sacked.

Baltimore coach Brian Billick believed he had things so much in hand with a 24-0 lead after three quarters that he pulled McNair and halfback Jamal Lewis (66 yards on 17 carries). Lewis scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter and Matt Stover kicked field goals of 37 yards in the second quarter and 40 yards in the fourth.

"Incredible win for us," Billick said. "I'm constantly surprised by what goes on in this league."

The Steelers started flat and finished on their backs.

"We didn't show up today," Ward proclaimed. "We had guys with their heads down, very uncharacteristic. They started fast and we just couldn't get out of that."

Roethlisberger ran for his life but could not escape the relentless Ravens' pass rush. He completed 21 of 41 passes for 214 yards and had a 46.2 passer rating. He left for one play in the second quarter when his chest was bruised on a sack by linebacker Bart Scott.

"He got banged around pretty good," Cowher said.

"They did a good job of bringing more people than we could handle," guard Kendall Simmons said. "You have five guys in, six guys to block and they're bringing seven or eight. It's hard to kind of defend that."

The Steelers found it hard to defend their play overall. Each of their previous losses were reasonably close with a chance for them to win in the fourth quarter. That was not nearly the case yesterday.

"This is probably the worst beating I've been a part of," defensive end Brett Keisel said.

Willie Parker had little room to run and that part of the game was abandoned early. He ran 10 times for 22 yards, which includes a 12-yard run. Roethlisberger ran once for minus-1. The Steelers finished with 11 carries, 21 yards, their lowest of the season.

"Oh, man, it's just frustrating," Parker said. "We just can't get it going. Their defense over there, Ray [Lewis] has them boys right. We just couldn't identify the blitz."

McNair made it look easy on his first drive. He completed all four passes he tried for 51 yards, the last one of 20 yards and a touchdown to Heap, who put a move on cornerback Deshea Townsend and was wide open in the right back corner of the end zone.

Lewis scored on a 1-yard run with 4:21 left in the first half for Baltimore's second touchdown that capped a 47-yard drive on eight plays. Stover kicked a 37-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the half.

Baltimore scored its third touchdown when cornerback Corey Ivy hit Roethlisberger as he was about to throw, knocking the ball out of his hand on a third-down play that began at the Ravens' 30.

Thomas picked up the loose ball and ran down the sideline 57 yards for the touchdown that made the score 24-0. Stover kicked his second field goal of the game, from 40 yards with 4:15 left as the Ravens merely tried to run out the clock.

Polamalu's knee injury -- a sprained medial collateral ligament -- piled on the bad news for the gloomy Steelers on a perfect November day full of sunshine in Baltimore and for the Ravens.

"They had our number in every area -- defense, offense and special teams," linebacker Larry Foote said.

Ward expressed surprise that his team would play so poorly after a two-game winning streak lit faint hopes that it might start another miracle run.

"We knew coming into this game we had to play a perfect game and we did totally opposite," Ward said. "We played our worst game ever, probably."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06331/741505-66.stm
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