Hail The Ravens Killer

Dale Lolley hails Ben Roethlisberger -- Ravens killer.

Imagine for a minute that you're a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.

Imagine how frustrating it must be to know that you can't beat the Pittsburgh Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger is at quarterback.

"You're a Ravens killer," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told his quarterback on his way into the locker room.

That he is.

With Saturday's 31-24 win over the Ravens in the AFC Divisional playoffs, Roethlisberger is now 9-2 against the Ravens, including seven wins in a row. The Ravens haven't beaten him since doing so twice during the 2006 season when he was recovering from an offseason motorcycle accident.

Maybe they should buy him a Harley.

"I don't think anyone ever has my number," said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, who sacked Roethlisberger three times and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

"Every time we come in here or we play them at our place, they're battles."

But when Roethlisberger plays, the Ravens lose.

Saturday's game was perhaps Baltimore's best chance in a long time to beat Roethlisberger.

The Ravens sacked him three times in the first half and held a 21-7 lead. But Baltimore found out the hard way that its own quarterback, Joe Flacco, who was being lauded as Joe Cool for winning five road playoff games in his first three seasons, is not Roethlisberger.

Flacco threw an interception and fumbled a snap from center in the third quarter, handing the Steelers the ball deep in Baltimore territory. Those two turnovers, coupled with a fumble by Ray Rice, turned a 21-7 lead into a 24-21 deficit.

"You don't want to do that whenever you're playing Ben Roethlisberger," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.

Just to drive that point home, after the Ravens had tied the game at 24-24 with 3:54 left in the game, they were burned once again by Roethlisberger.

First, he snapped off a 12-yard pass to Hines Ward on one third-down play, then fired a 58-yard bomb to rookie Antonio Brown on another third down to set up Rashard Mendenhall's game-winning score.

Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the AFC North and it's not even close. Flacco isn't in the same league.

Next week, regardless of who the Steelers play in the AFC Championship, Roethlisberger will get an opportunity to claim a spot as one of the best to ever play the game.

With four trips to the AFC Championship Game and a pair of Super Bowl victories already in hand, some would argue that he's already there.

* For whatever reason, the Steelers came out trying to pound the ball at the Ravens.

After the Ravens scored to go ahead 21-7, they had run 27 plays, 19 of which were attempted passes. The Steelers had run 19 plays, seven of which were pass attempts.

It wasn't until the Steelers finally put the ball in the hands of their best playmaker – Roethlisberger – that they started moving the ball effectively.

They had better not make the same mistake next week – particularly if they play New England.

The Steelers have to attack the Patriots and continue attacking until the last second ticks off the clock.

You know going into a game with Tom Brady that he's going to make some plays. The only chance you have is if your offense makes more.

* What the Ravens attempted to do offensively to the Steelers should give them a good primer as to what the Patriots or Jets will try.

Baltimore ran a lot of screens and misdirection passes, but the Steelers did a pretty good job of tackling Rice and holding him to short gains.

* Hines Ward was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the first quarter, apparently for blocking Baltimore's Ed Reed too hard.

Those two jawed at each other throughout this game and you can bet that Ward wasn't offering Reed his condolences for the death of his brother last week.

* The Ravens had 28 yards of offense in the second half and 126 for the game. That's the second-fewest yards allowed by a Pittsburgh defense in 52 playoff games, topped only by the 123 given up in Super Bowl IX against Minnesota.

A big reason for that was the pressure they put in Flacco's face throughout the game. The Steelers sacked him five times and also had four hurries and eight passes defensed.

If they can do that next week, the Steelers will have a good chance of beating whomever they play.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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