The Ravens wanted to use Monday night’s showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh as a message that the AFC North still belongs to them. By about 10:30pm eastern time most Ravens fans had probably not only given up hope of a repeat of the AFC North title, but also turned their TV’s off and went to bed in disgust. The Ravens were beaten from start to finish Monday night, giving up three first quarter turnovers in an ugly 38-7 loss to the now 6-2 Steelers.
The loss drops the Ravens to 4-4, and with the way their offense played in Pittsburgh, it is hard to think right now that the 2007 season is going to have a happy ending. The team has shown no ability to throw the ball when it needs to, the running game has never gotten truly on track, and the offensive line with the injuries its suffered has been in a flux all season. It all adds up to what has become a very frustrating season for the birds.
The game was marked by two key players for the Steelers, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has continued to play well all season, tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes. The five TD passes all came in the first half when the team built the huge lead as they went in the locker room up 35-7. The other star of the night was little known linebacker James Harrison, who took the spot of former disruptive linebacker Joey Porter when he was released by the team last spring. Harrison was all over the field, with 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and an interception.
“I wouldn’t even know how to begin to characterize this,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “I’m just glad it’s a short week and we don’t have time to dwell on this.” The Ravens fumbled three times in the first quarter, losing them all, and it turned into 21 Steelers points. Roethlisberger hit tight end Heath Miller for a 17-yard score with 7:17 left in the first quarter after a Steve McNair fumble, caused by Harrison, and the route was on.
Later in the quarter he hit Santonio Holmes for his first of two TD catches to make it 14-0. Early in the second quarter he found a wide open Nate Washington for a 30-yard score to make it 21-0. Holmes pulled in his second TD with 5:40 left in the half to make it 28-0, and then Washington caught his second TD pass with 1:51 left in the first half to make it 35-0. The Ravens only score came on a 33-yard scamper from Willis McGahee 18 seconds after the Steelers made it 35-0.
The numbers of the contest were staggering, as one might consider. The Ravens were held to 5 first downs, 104 total yards, and 40 net yards passing. Their inability in the rain in Pittsburgh to get the ball down the field once again showed, and without their two starting cornerbacks, Chris McCallister and Samari Rolle, who were both hurt, their secondary didn’t stand a chance against Roethlisberger. McNair was awful all night, going 13-for-22 for 63 yards with one pick, and he was sacked five times for 37 yards.
The only not-so-good numbers for the Steelers came from their running game, as the Ravens stuffed Willie Parker, holding the back to just 42 yards on 23 carries, a 1.8 yards per carry average. Overall the Steelers ran for 90 yards on 39 carries, a 2.3 yards per carry average. Most of the second half though was just the Steelers rushing the ball and trying to keep their offense on the field as much as they could.
For the Ravens, their prospect of making the playoffs even as a wild card seem in heavy doubt today. Their offense lacks any sort of big play ability, and QB Steve McNair is showing his age every week as his body is just taking a beating behind an offensive line that simply has not been able to play together due to the injuries it has been hit with all season. If Baltimore is going to make a run at the postseason, it’s going to have to be with it’s defense, and they were no match for an inspired Steelers team on Monday night.