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|11-27-2006, 05:47 AM||#1|
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Ravens all but end Steelers' playoff hopes
Ravens all but end Steelers' playoff hopes
By Scott Brown
Monday, November 27, 2006
BALTIMORE - This time the Steelers couldn't say their wounds -- and, ultimately, another loss -- were self-inflicted.
And their trail to the playoffs went cold on an unseasonably warm day in Baltimore.
Just like their offense.
The Ravens dominated the Steelers on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, handing them one of their worst losses of the Bill Cowher era.
Baltimore won, 27-0, in front of almost 71,000 fans and extinguished the Steelers' flickering playoff hopes in the process.
Only one other time have the Steelers (4-7) been beaten by more points since Cowher took over as head coach in 1992, and they may have lost more than a game yesterday.
Troy Polamalu may have sustained what Cowher called a "significant knee injury" in the second half. Polamalu said he planned on getting an MRI taken on his left knee last night.
That the All-Pro safety was "optimistic" he hadn't seriously injured his knee qualified as good news on a day that didn't offer much of it for the beleaguered Steelers.
Cowher resembled an incumbent politician who had conceded an election when, unsolicited, he offered his own take on the Steelers' chances of making the playoffs.
"We've got to line up and play this thing out," Cowher said. "It starts with next week at home against Tampa (Bay), and we'll go from there."
The Ravens (9-2) didn't just beat the Steelers, they also beat up their AFC North rivals. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger nine times and knocked the Steelers quarterback out of the game for a short time in the second quarter.
Given the beating he endured, Roethlisberger probably would have been better off letting Charlie Batch play in the second half.
Images of the Ravens' physical dominance were as plentiful as smiles in the home locker room after a surprisingly easy victory.
There was Jamal Lewis planting his helmet into the sternum of Ryan Clark, punctuating one of a handful of punishing runs he made in the second quarter.
Any number of Ravens sacks also tell the story of their Steelers' unmasking. That included a second-quarter one by Bart Scott, which Roethlisberger said was "probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life."
Baltimore so manhandled the Steelers, who had 172 yards of total offense, that starting quarterback Steve McNair gave way to backup Kyle Boller with almost 11 minutes left in the game.
"I felt like this team was as ready as we've ever been in the locker room (before the game)," center Jeff Hartings said. "I really did."
Hines Ward, who played on a gimpy knee, sounded downright angry after the Steelers were shut out for the first time since 2003.
"A lot of people probably wouldn't have played this game. I wanted to go out there and fight with my teammates," said Ward, who hyperextended his knee the previous week. "It was just amazing how it can be a big game that it was, and we didn't come out and match the intensity that they (had). To get shut out like we did, it's embarrassing."
The Steelers, or at least their fans, probably have to part with the idea that the defending Super Bowl champions still have a chance to make the playoffs. The Steelers would need to win five consecutive games and receive something Roethlisberger didn't get yesterday from his offensive line: a lot of help.
Any hope the Steelers had of Roethlisberger rallying them yesterday ended with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
Roethlisberger got belted by Corey Ivy just as he was about to throw, and his fumble was scooped up and returned 57 yards for a touchdown by Adalius Thomas.
That gave the Ravens, who have won five consecutive games, a 24-0 lead. It may as well have made the score 240-0, considering the two teams were about as close yesterday as Baltimore and Bali.
"These next five games are all about pride," guard Kendall Simmons said. "If you go into the tank now, then you don't need to be playing."
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