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Beating Ravens puts Steelers in control

Posted Dec 5, 2010

STEELERS 13, RAVENS 10

Steelers’ record: 9-3
One year ago: 6-6
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 20-11

STORYLINE
This game is fiercely contested even when there is nothing at stake for one of the teams, but this was a more typical matchup in that the winner almost certainly will win the AFC North Division. There is a style of football that defines Steelers-Ravens, and the games always are Nielsen winners, but how much of the essence of this matchup would be allowed to remain with the way the rules are being enforced since Oct. 17?

TURNING POINT
The Steelers didn’t have much going for them, and the time was winding off the clock. Troy Polamalu came off the corner and sacked and stripped Joe Flacco, with LaMarr Woodley coming on to return the fumble 19 yards to the Baltimore 9-yard line.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Ben Roethlisberger raised his record as a starting quarterback vs. the Ravens to 6-0 since Mike Tomlin was hired as the Steelers coach in 2007.

WHAT WENT RIGHT
* Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Steelers on the opening series. The Ravens were flagged for holding on the opening kickoff, which meant their offense began at the 13-yard line. Todd Heap was lost to a hamstring injury on a first down incompletion, and on third-and-10 Ziggy Hood sacked Joe Flacco to force Sam Koch to punt from his own end zone.

* On the Ravens’ second punt, with just over 10 minutes left in the first quarter, a snap to up-back Haruki Nakamura on an attempted fake was sabotaged by a false start penalty on Brendon Ayanbadejo. It seemed as though Nakamura had a lane on a play where 8 yards would’ve been a first down.

* After a 67-yard pass to Donte Stallworth converted a third-and-6 and put the ball at the Steelers 27-yard line, a false start penalty on Michael Oher, a tackle for a 2-yard loss by James Harrison on Ray Rice and an 11-yard sack by Ike Taylor took the Ravens out of field goal range.

* On a third-and-11 from the Ravens 30-yard line – the final play of the third quarter – Ben Roethlisberger escaped a blitz by Nakamura and on a dead sprint completed a 28-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders to the Baltimore 2-yard line. Shaun Suisham’s field goal cut the Baltimore lead to 10-6.

* It was third-and-goal from the 9-yard line, and the Steelers were trailing, 10-6, and running out of opportunities. Roethlisberger dumped the ball to Isaac Redman at the 7-yard line, and Redman broke tackles by Dawan Landry and then Jarret Johnson to score the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 13-10 lead.

WHAT WENT WRONG
* In the act of sacking Ben Roethlisberger early in the first quarter, Haloti Ngata hit the quarterback across the facemask with his hand, which caused a bloody nose. Not that a bloody nose is a serious injury, but hitting the quarterback in the head area is supposed to be a penalty. Every time.

* It was third-and-15 from the Baltimore 3-yard line late in the first quarter when the Steelers had their defensive backs challenging the Ravens receivers with no safety deep. Anquan Boldin got behind Ryan Clark to catch a pass that turned into a 61-yard gain to the Steelers 38-yard line. The possession ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Boldin and a 7-0 Ravens lead.

* Daniel Sepulveda’s 53-yard punt was returned 35 yards by Lardarius Webb to give the Ravens the ball at their 49-yard line, and Sepulveda also injured his right knee trying to make the tackle.

* With Sepulveda out with a knee injury, Shaun Suisham came on to punt, and his first attempt was downed at the Baltimore 2-yard line. But a holding penalty on Jason Worilds forced a re-kick that gave the Ravens the ball at their 15-yard line.

* The Steelers were forced to burn a second half timeout on a 45-yard field goal attempt because David Johnson neglected to take his normal spot as the wing on the left side. Suisham made the kick to cut Baltimore’s lead to 7-3, but at the extra cost of a timeout.

* Late in the third quarter, an attempted pass to Heath Miller was incomplete, and at the end of the play Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain came across and hit Miller in the head with his forearm when the receiver was in a defenseless position. The play was identical to the hit James Harrison put on Mohamed Massaquoi, the play for which he was fined $75,000. No penalty was called, and Miller left the game with a concussion.

* The Steelers had a first down nullified by a penalty for illegal formation – only six men on the line of scrimmage – and then after an incomplete pass Suisham punted from his own goal line. The Ravens took over at their 48-yard line with 9:46 left in the game.

* A penalty on Keenan Lewis for running out of bounds nullified a 46-yard punt by Suisham that was downed at the Ravens’ 4-yard line. After the re-kick and the return, the Ravens took over at their 28-yard line with just under five minutes left in the game.

HONORING THE REAL HEROES
A contingent of 16 current and former Steelers players, plus Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II visited the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda on the day before the team’s game in Baltimore vs. the Ravens.

Bethesda is an acute care facility for Navy and Marines personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the patients are being treated for brain trauma and/or loss of limbs. A spokesman for the facility said the Steelers were the first team ever to visit while on an in-season road trip, and the only team to bring so many star players.

Nick Eason, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Brett Keisel, Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu, Daniel Sepulveda, Matt Spaeth, Ike Taylor, Lawrence Timmons, Hines Ward, Greg Warren, Max Starks, with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley were in the Steelers party.

INJURY UPDATE
The Steelers continued to have their ranks thinned by injury as the regular season heads into its final four games.

The most serious injury was to Daniel Sepulveda, who tore the ACL in his right knee – his plant leg – the second time he has sustained this injury in the past three seasons. Sepulveda is expected to be placed on injured reserve, with the Steelers then in the market for a punter.

Ben Roethlisberger had his nose broken by a forearm to the face by Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. No penalty was called, even though hits to the head of the quarterback are supposed to be illegal, and Roethlisberger did not miss an offensive snap.

Heath Miller sustained a concussion when he was hit in the head by the forearms of linebacker Jameel McClain on a play exactly like the one where James Harrison was fined $75,000 for hitting Mohamed Massaquoi. After Miller went out, the Steelers only healthy tight end was David Johnson.

Flozell Adams sprained an ankle in the second half and was replaced by Trai Essex.