The Baltimore Ravens are able to match the Pittsburgh Steelers in every aspect of football. Both teams are fast, hit hard, play physical, led by outstanding quarterbacks and possess a great coaching staff.
However, the Steelers had the mental edge over the Ravens for the past few seasons.
As of Sept. 11, 2011, the Ravens may have finally gotten over the mental hump that the Steelers had over them as they dominated the black and gold since the opening kickoff, with no mental breakdowns, for a ‘Harm City’ (not Charm City) beat down, 35-7.
The Ravens picked up where they left off at the end of the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Round last season on Jan. 15 in Pittsburgh as they executed aggressively to put up 21 points by halftime.
The Ravens posted 265 total yards in the first half, led by running back Ray Rice who scored twice and outgained the Steelers total yards output (113 yards) with 127 yards (89 rushing yards).
Rice normally has a solid outing against the Steelers, who finished with 107 yards rushing on 19 carries, so his performance was never in question. Apparently, due to the absence of center Matt Birk (who had knee surgery at the start of training camp) and tackle Bryant McKinnie (who joined the club in late August), the Ravens were thought to experience some hardship in protecting quarterback Joe Flacco.
The only hardship the Ravens offensive line experienced was frustrated defensive linemen of the Steelers as they picked up Pittsburgh’s blitzes and gave Flacco the time he needed to pick apart the Steelers’ secondary for three touchdown passes, finishing 17 out of 29 attempts for 224 yards.
“Those guys did a great job. I’ve been saying all week, I’m really confident in the way these guys are going to play,” said Flacco after the game. “It’s a great group of guys. [LT] Bryant [McKinnie] is the only guy who hasn’t been there, so the fact that they hadn’t played together, I wasn’t worried about that, and I know Bryant is a really good left tackle.”
“So why worry about it anyway? I thought those guys did a great job, I felt comfortable back there all day,” he said. “I think they might have sacked me one time, but I was really untouched.”
After being down 14-0, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hooked up with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 11-yard touchdown pass with 10:30 left in the second quarter, which sent a cool chill throughout M&T Bank Stadium as flashes of Steelers’ comebacks entered the minds of the Ravens’ faithful.
After a series each from the Ravens and Steelers, Baltimore responded with a 12-play drive, finished by a touchdown pass from Flacco to Rice, making it 21-7.
Nevertheless, the Ravens defense is forever the talk regarding Baltimore. It was a fair exchange of defensive dominance, matched with an offense that took advantage of the record-setting seven turnover outing.
“It was domination,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs who registered five tackles, including three sacks and two forced fumbles. “You can say domination but it was a team thing. The team got all those turnovers. It was a great day for the city of Baltimore.”
Roethlisberger, who finished 22 out of 41 attempts for 280 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, should look into filing assault and battery charges on the Ravens’ defense as they sacked him four times, along with countless severe late hits.
If Roethlisberger was not getting battered, running back Rashard Mendenhall was the beneficiary of the Ravens’ blows as he fumbled twice.
On the first play from scrimmage for the Steelers at the opening of the third quarter, Ravens defensive tackle Hatoli Ngata destroyed Mendenhall, causing him to put the ball on the ground at the Steelers’ 19-yard line as he saw No. 92 coming before he touched the ball.
“They just let me go, and I was able to get back there pretty quick,” said Ngata. “I was able to get there while they were handing off the ball. I was able to hit [Rashard] Mendenhall and force the fumble and recover the ball.”
The turnover committed by Ngata relieved the thoughts of any comeback by the Steelers as many remembered the meltdown last year in Pittsburgh.
“The thing that I corrected everybody…Everybody was saying, ‘We’ve been here before,’” said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis when he addressed his teammate at halftime. “And I was like, ‘We haven’t been here before, because 2010 is 2010, and 2011 is a whole new year.’ If you understand it that way, then you understand that this is a new team.
“Some people never went through the Pittsburgh rivalry, so why put them through that, you know, something that we went through [last year],” he continued. “We’re not talking about the Super Bowl champs, we’re talking about the runner-up in the Super Bowl. So for us, the bottom line was just to come out and be who we are. And that’s the 2011 Ravens.”
Thereafter the play of the game, the Ravens made a statement to the Steelers and the NFL that they will no longer be conservative and shallow touchdown opportunities by playing for first downs and field goals.
Flacco connected with tight end Ed Dickson for a 18-yard touchdown pass after the Steelers’ turnover and capped the score with a fake field goal for a two-point conversion as punter Sam Koch ran the ball in to make the contest 29-7.
Other than the question mark about the Ravens’ offensive line, which was answered, Flacco’s record against the Steelers when Big Ben played, 0-7. Flacco silenced his critics forever—or did he?
“I don’t know, there’s always going to be critics,” said Flacco. “Turn around, 10 weeks down the road, and something might happen, and okay, it’s back again. Who knows? For the time being, maybe, but I doubt it will last too long.”
The Ravens (1-0) came out Sunday and accomplished their goal, won their first game of the season. Baltimore has 15 more scheduled games remaining, but the victory over the Steelers (0-1) was great on several levels, none more important than the mental aspect.
The Ravens and Steelers will meet again.
However, for Week 1, it was all Ravens.
“We’ve beaten these guys before, and we’ll beat them again,” said Flacco. “It’s just another win; it’s a great win for us.”
Article via Bleacher Report