Monday, September 12, 2011
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger(notes) #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is hit by defender Jarret Johnson(notes) #95 of the Baltimore Ravens after releasing the ball during second half of the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - The 46 Steelers who dressed for the game here Sunday afternoon should be listed on the injury report that coach Mike Tomlin puts out Tuesday.
All suffered battered pride in the 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Take linebacker James Harrison. He felt old pain in his back from two surgeries in the offseason and new pain in his right knee from what appeared to be a relatively minor injury late in the game. But it was nothing compared with the pain he felt during the long walk out of M&T Bank Stadium to the team bus and on the ride to the airport through jeering Ravens fans who had waited a long time for their team to put such a butt-kicking on the hated Steelers.
"A terrible loss," Harrison called it. "To get beat like a dog ... "
It seems the Ravens enjoyed it every bit as much as their fans. For more than eight months, they had heard how coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco couldn't beat the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers. They had been reminded countless times how they had lost to the Steelers in the playoffs after the 2010 and '08 seasons.
Maybe that's why Harbaugh exhorted the crowd for at least a minute during a break early in the fourth quarter after the game had been long decided. You don't often see NFL coaches doing that sort of thing. Certainly, it had something to do with linebacker Terrell Suggs -- the best player on the field, as he always seems to be when the two teams play -- and running back Ray Rice, who sliced the Steelers defense for 149 combined yards and two touchdowns, hamming it up for the stadium cameras late in the game with a dance number that should have made Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward envious.
Instead, it made Ward mad.
"It leaves a taste in your mouth," he said. "The 2-point conversion [when the Ravens led, 27-7]. The passing at the end ...
"We'll remember everything."
The Ravens earned the right to rub the Steelers' noses in it. They put an awesome performance on tape. The Steelers, meanwhile, showed nothing.
"They brought it," offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "We didn't."
It was like that all over the Steelers locker room.
"We couldn't stop anything," linebacker James Farrior said.
No, they couldn't. Not from the beginning. Rice went for 36 yards off left tackle on the first play, breaking a tackle by safety Ryan Clark along the way. Flacco threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who beat cornerback Bryant McFadden, on the third play for a 7-0 lead.
"We had no answers," Clark said.
No, they didn't. Rice ran for 107 yards and caught four passes for 42 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown. Flacco threw for three scores and was sacked just one time. The Steelers didn't force a turnover.
The stars of the Steelers defense were hardly stars. Harrison did nothing except stop Rice for no gain on fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter. Safety Troy Polamalu did nothing, period, one day after signing a new four-year, $36.5 million contract. LaMarr Woodley had the only sack but was otherwise mostly invisible. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons ...
Only cornerback Ike Taylor played a strong game, shutting out Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans. Anybody who doesn't think Taylor is a shutdown corner just isn't paying attention.
But back to the debacle ...
"The way they beat us is embarrassing," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Since I've been here, nobody has beaten us like that on both sides of the ball for the entire game."
The Steelers offense was miserable with seven turnovers, including an unbelievable six in a seven-possession sequence in the second half. "I have to play better," Roethlisberger said after his three-interception, two-fumble game. He gets no argument here.
But it's hard not to give the Ravens defense a lot of credit. Their stars played like stars. The great Suggs had three sacks and forced two fumbles. Safety Ed Reed had two interceptions. Linebacker Ray Lewis had an interception and fumble recovery. Nose tackle Haloti Ngata had a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
The domination was so great that, at one point in the second half, Ngata stood over Steelers offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and taunted him.
"We'll remember everything."
Sure, the Steelers will. The question is: Will they be able to do something about it when the teams meet Nov. 6 at Heinz Field?
Was this lame performance just one game, as every player on each team insisted? Or was it an indication that the Steelers will struggle behind their offensive line? Or that their defense, with eight starters older than 30, is beginning to hit the wall?
We'll know a lot more as soon as Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks come to Heinz Field.
"You have to keep it in perspective," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said. "You can say it's just one game and, in reality, it counts as just one game. But we've got to take a good look at this and see what we have to correct. We've got to make sure we do something different. This wasn't good enough."
No, it wasn't.
It was a terrible loss.
The Steelers were beaten like a dog.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author