Big Ben sacked nine times, Steelers blanked by Ravens

BALTIMORE (AP) -- While sacking Ben Roethlisberger nine times,

the Baltimore Ravens smothered almost any chance the Pittsburgh Steelers had of successfully defending their Super Bowl title.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...

These two defenses blitz an awful lot and Sunday was no different. The Steelers were both confused and physically overmatched in their pass protection. Ben Roethlisberger (above) paid the price as Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan used multiple pressures, overload blitzes and dogs that repeatedly resulted in an unblocked man coming free.

On the other side of the ball, while the Steelers blitzed Steve McNair often, their cornerbacks didn't hold up well and Baltimore's protection was outstanding. This was a physically dominating performance by Baltimore.

The Ravens yielded only 36 yards in the decisive first half

Sunday and coasted to their fifth straight victory, a 27-0 blowout

that left the Steelers with only a mathematical chance of reaching

the playoffs.

It was Pittsburgh's most lopsided defeat since a 37-7 whipping

by Dallas in the 1997 season opener.

"A very pitiful performance out there today," Steelers coach

Bill Cowher said. "Where we go from here is we've got to line up

and play this thing out. It starts next week."

Baltimore (9-2) leads Pittsburgh (4-7) in the AFC North by five

games with five to play.

"It's the next step," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's

against a championship-caliber organization. They have a Super Bowl

ring, a number of them, and we can feel very good about it."

The Steelers had won two straight following a 2-6 start, but

their resurgence was emphatically squelched by the hated Ravens,

who got all the points they needed with a touchdown on their

opening possession.

The nine sacks, which totaled 73 yards and matched a Ravens

franchise record, included a vicious hit by Bart Scott that forced

Roethlisberger out of the game in the second quarter. The

quarterback missed only one play, but for the rest of the afternoon

he was harassed by a relentless rush.

Elias Says

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers suffered their second shutout of the season, a 27-0 loss to the Ravens that equaled the third-largest shutout victory recorded over a defending champion in modern NFL history (that is, since 1933). Only two other defending champions lost two shutouts in a season during that time: the 1981 Raiders (3) and the 1964 Bears (2).

• For more Elias Says, Click here.

"They got after it. You can't get mad at the line; they did a

good job," Roethlisberger said. "There were so many things they

had to pick up."

After a while, the only thing Roethlisberger could do was duck.

"We do what we always do. We just did a little bit more of

it," said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had six tackles

and two sacks. "It came from different places that we don't

usually do."

It was the second time this year that the Steelers were shut

out; the last time Pittsburgh was blanked at least twice in a

season was in 1989.

"You got a rivalry game and they don't score, you not only send

a message for the next time you play them, you send a message to

the next team you play," Suggs said.

Four of the Steelers' first six drives ended in three-and-outs.

The seventh concluded with a sack by Corey Ivy that resulted in a

fumble that Baltimore's Adalius Thomas returned 57 yards for a

touchdown. It gave the Ravens a 24-0 lead with 4:46 left in the

third quarter.

Roethlisberger went 21-for-41 for 214 yards and two

interceptions. Willie Parker got only 15 yards rushing in the first

half and finished with 22.

Baltimore led 17-0 at halftime after limiting Pittsburgh to

three first downs. Steve McNair spent most of the second half

handing off the ball after going 13-for-17 for 121 yards and a

touchdown in the opening 30 minutes.

McNair was 18-for-24 for 140 yards before being replaced by Kyle

Boller with just over 10 minutes to play.

Jamal Lewis ran for 66 yards and a touchdown, and Todd Heap had

seven catches for 58 yards and a score.

Baltimore is 5-0 since Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim

Fassel and began calling the plays himself. The offense was

impressive, but the key to the blowout was a defense that welcomed

back middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed the previous two games

with a back injury.

Lewis was credited with six tackles, including a sack.

"It's just great to have 52 back," defensive coordinator Rex

Ryan said. "He just energized the whole team."

The Ravens set the tone on their opening drive, moving 56 yards

in six plays for a 7-0 lead. McNair went 4-for-4 for 51 yards,

including a 20-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Heap.

While the Steelers struggled offensively, Baltimore gained

favorable field position through a series of punts and began its

fourth drive on the Pittsburgh 47. Eight plays later, Jamal Lewis

pounded in from the 1 to make it 14-0.

Later in the second quarter, Scott zipped around left end

untouched and flattened Roethlisberger with a driving hit to the

chest. The quarterback lay prone for several minutes before finally

walking off the field on his own.

"That's probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life. I

didn't see the guy coming," Roethlisberger said. "He hit me

clean, hit me front side and I just kind of remember my head

hitting the ground.'

Charlie Batch entered for one play, a 10-yard completion to

Parker on a third-and-16.Game notes
Ravens LB Dan Cody left in the first quarter with a knee

strain. ... Pittsburgh SS Troy Polamalu also hurt his knee. In his postgame news conference, Cowher called the injury a "significant" knee injury...

Baltimore had nine sacks vs Philadelphia in 1997.