After 'The Hit,' Steelers-Ravens set to clash

OWINGS MILLS -- The bullying hit is now a memory as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott's helmet is no longer attached to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's chest plate. One year after Scott buried an unsuspecting Roethlisberger with a tackle whose decibels nearly equaled its pain quotient, the Ravens and the Steelers are about to battle again for supremacy in the AFC North.

Can the Ravens (4-3) recapture the intimidation factor against the Steelers (5-2) on Monday night at Heinz Field based on last season's dominance? Or is Scott's dream shot, along with a combined 58-7 margin of victory in two Baltimore wins, completely irrelevant to this year's series between the hated rivals?

"That's gone," Scott said Tuesday afternoon in the Ravens' locker room. "We all get hits, it doesn't follow us. Ben's a great competitor, and I doubt it's lingering on his mind.

"It's the most perfect, square hit I've been able to ever get, to be able to unload on somebody and his body was totally loose. It put a stamp on my season, that I had arrived in the NFL. That was last year, though. If I lived for yesterday, you would get rid of me."

Aside from Scott's oft-replayed sack that ultimately landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the Ravens generated 13 other sacks of Roethlisberger in the two games: a 27-0 shutout in Baltimore and a 31-7 rout in Pittsburgh.

Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker was halted in his tracks by the Ravens' stingy defense, gaining a combined 53 rushing yards on 23 carries. In his 14 other games, Parker dashed for 1,443 yards.

The Steelers only lost two games in the second half of last season, both against the Ravens. "Man, they roughed us up a lot," Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh reporters this week. "They're a great football team, offensively and defensively."

Pittsburgh managed to gain just 172 yards of total offense, including 21 rushing yards, in the first meeting as Baltimore piled up three turnovers and registered nine sacks to tie the most allowed in a game by the Steelers in franchise history.

Then, the Ravens' offense extinguished the Steelers' playoff hopes with 359 yards of total offense as quarterback Steve McNair put on a rare display of deep passing.

"They want to come back and redeem themselves in front of their crowd after losing to us twice," Scott said. "It's going to be a great challenge."

A year later, it's the Ravens who look vulnerable.

Their four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-24. They have yet to play an entire game against a starting quarterback who began the season under center.

Running roughshod over the Steelers last season feels like old news to the Ravens, who are probably hoping that Pittsburgh isn't looking to exact a measure of revenge.

"That's a lifetime ago," Ravens coach Brian Billick said twice for emphasis. "It's a whole new ballgame, and they know that."

Owning a one-game edge in the division, the Steelers have been established widely as nine-point favorites for Monday night's nationally-televised clash.

The Steelers dispatched the Cincinnati Bengals 24-13 on Sunday, easily handling a team that handed the Ravens a 27-20 loss to open the season.

The Steelers feature the NFL's top-ranked defense just ahead of the Ravens' second-ranked unit, allowing a league-low 256.9 yards per game. Parker is the second-ranked runner in the NFL with 726 yards.

And Roethlisberger has completed 64.1 percent of his throws for 1,533 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 102.2 quarterback rating, distributing the football democratically to wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and tight end Heath Miller.

"The Steelers are probably the best team we've faced yet," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "Roethlisberger is looking like he did when he was a rookie and they were 15-1."

In particular, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Roethlisberger has been at the center of that resurgence, making plays with his arm and his surprisingly nimble feet.

Last season, Roethlisberger was recuperating from a motorcycle crash, an emergency appendectomy and a pair of concussions.

Because of the big Ohio native's ability to improvise, it's critical that the Ravens at least pressure him even if they're not able to knock him out of the game.

"If we can get to him early, maybe that will be on his mind," Scott said. "Until we do that and establish ourselves, last year means nothing.

"A hit last year doesn't affect this year. The key will be getting to him again. Hopefully, I've got another hit in me just like that one from last year."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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