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Steelers lose to Ravens, 35-7

Posted Sep 11, 2011

RAVENS 35, STEELERS 7

Steelers’ record: 0-1
One year ago: 1-0
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 21-13

STORYLINE
Mike Tomlin put all of this in perspective earlier in the week. “Who is angry, who is not. What is said and what is not said. We all know that is going to be irrelevant when the ball is kicked off. The root of the matter is, we have two very good football teams with the same intentions, and that is to dominate the AFC North and put themselves in positions to chase the Lombardi. That is why we will always have issues with these guys because I expect that their goals will be unchanging like ours. So two trains are on the track. See you Sunday.”

TURNING POINT

In the Steelers’ win in the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs, the game turned at the start of the second half when the Ravens offense turned the ball over on three straight possessions. That happened in this game as well, only it was the Steelers who turned the ball over three straight times – a lost fumble and two interceptions. The Ravens used one takeaway to score a touchdown, and the one interception came in the end zone to thwart a Steelers potential touchdown.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT

This 35-7 loss was the Steelers’ worst to open a season since 1997, when they lost, 37-7, to the Dallas Cowboys at Three Rivers Stadium. The 1997 Steelers went on to win the AFC Central Division title and host the AFC Championship Game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

A couple of early holding penalties on the Ravens helped out the Steelers in the first quarter.  The bigger of the two was one on LT Bryant McKinnie when his hold of James Harrison nullified a 35-yard pass to TE Ed Dickson that went to the Steelers 33-yard line.

It was third-and-goal from the Ravens 11-yard line, and the Steelers needed a touchdown to get back into the game early in the second quarter. Baltimore rushed only three guys on the play, and after surveying the field for some time, Ben Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders wide open along the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The score brought the Steelers to 14-7 with 10:23 left in the first half.

On the Steelers offensive series immediately after Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble, Haloti Ngata tipped a Ben Roethlisberger attempted pass that Ray Lewis intercepted and returned to the Steelers 17-yard line. But on fourth-and-1 at the 8-yard line, John Harbaugh eschewed an easy field goal and a 32-7 lead to go for the first down. James Harrison stuffed Ray Rice for no gain, and the Steelers took over on downs.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not a good start. Not good at all. Lardarius Webb took the kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone and returned it 34 yards, and Emmanuel Sanders being offside added 5 more yards to that. Then on the first offensive play, Ray Rice burst over the left side for 36 yards to the Steelers 30-yard line. Two plays later, Joe Flacco hit Anquan Boldin down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown. All of that took only 92 seconds, and the Ravens had a 7-0 lead.

Terrell Suggs looped to the inside to sack Ben Roethlisberger and cause a fumble that Haloti Ngata recovered at the Steelers 37-yard line. Four plays later, Ray Rice’s 1-yard run gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead with 1:49 left in the first quarter.

Some halftime statistics that help explain the Ravens’ 21-7 lead: Ray Rice had 89 yards rushing on 10 carries, plus another 38 on three receptions. That made 123 yards from scrimmage for Rice, plus two touchdowns. Also, the Ravens converted 6-of-8 on third down.

What had started out bad in the first half got worse in the second. On the first offensive play, Haloti Ngata came in clean between Doug Legursky and David Johnson and smacked Rashard Mendenhall as soon as he took the handoff to force a fumble that Ngata recovered. On the next play, TE Ed Dickson split Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu to catch Joe Flacco’s third touchdown pass of the day.

Roethlisberger had Heath Miller apparently open for a touchdown that could have cut the deficit to 29-14 midway though the third quarter, but he didn’t see Ed Reed lurking in the middle of the field near the goal line. Reed made the interception.

With 1:45 left in the third quarter, a 3-yard run by Ray Rice gave him 101 yards rushing on the day. That made Rice the first back to rush for 100 yards against the Steelers since he did it on Dec. 27, 2009. 

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