Steelers 38, Ravens 7
Nov. 5, 2007: Heinz Field
It wasn't a Sunday night game, but a Monday night game and the Steelers brought out Joe Greene -- and the rest of the All-Time Team -- for the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes in the first half, but it was James Harrison who stole the show with 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, an interception, another pass break-up, three forced fumbles, and one recovered fumble. He should've had a safety, too, but the referee ruled that forward progress had been established at the one.
Can the Steelers block the Ravens' pass-rushers?
Haloti Ngata may not be the one-man wrecking crew he used to be in the middle of the Ravens' line, but 30-year-old pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil remains an elite player. The edge rusher replaces Ngata on passing downs and has seven sacks this season. Dumervil posted two -- the only two for the Ravens -- against the Steelers in the last meeting, and in particular he ran over right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert missed last week's game with a concussion, and replacement Mike Adams was lauded for his performance, but Gilbert will return to his spot and he's coming with the proper focus. "It's personal," he told Steelers.com. "I've had this date circled on my calendar."
THREE QUESTIONS: With RG DAVID DECASTO
Q. Won't blocking the Ravens be more difficult than blocking the Colts?
A. I don't think you can say one's better than the other. Every week's a test in this league. Just look at the games the last couple of weeks. It's proven. Cleveland kills us and goes down and loses to Jacksonville. Who can predict? You prepare thinking that any team in this league can win. That's the bottom line.
Q. I don't think I can name one Colts defensive lineman, but the Ravens have legitimate star power. What are the difficulties they bring?
A. Yeah, a lot of veteran guys. They've got some young guys that are talented too. We have to be on our screws. They're savvy, they're veteran guys who've been doing it a long time and they're going to be ready to play. We always get the Ravens' best shot.
Q. Do you really enjoy going up against a guy like Ngata?
A. Of course. He's the best. He's really, really hard to play against. He makes his plays, but that's how you get better.
What to look for from the Steelers tonight against Baltimore:
The Ravens will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith, but as Mike Tomlin pointed out that will be balanced by the return of Steelers-killer Lardarius Webb, the CB who missed the first meeting between these teams. The Ravens' pass defense has had its problems. In fact, they rank 22nd in the league in yards allowed (Steelers are 19th), and they have only five interceptions (Steelers have six). So if the Steelers can find a way to block Dumervil and Pernell McPhee on passing downs, and Terrell Suggs on all downs, they might be able to find yardage in chunks with Brown and emerging threat Bryant. "We’ve watched some of that Cincinnati game," said Roethlisberger. "When (Smith) went out, and seeing what they’re doing, it’s almost more difficult because we don’t know what they’re going to do. We don’t know if that means more zones, more pressures, more man-to-man (coverage) so we’ll just have to kind of prepare for everything."
Like the Steelers, the Ravens are developing into more of an offensive team than the traditional defensive powerhouse they've always been. The Smith boys, Steve and Torrey, are both legitimate deep threats. Steve Smith has 41 catches and averages 16.5 yards per, and Torrey Smith has only 18 catches, but at 17.1 per clips. They are both deep threats, and Joe Flacco has only been sacked nine times this year. Justin Forsett has emerged as the running back to replace Ray Rice, and Forsett is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. So of course the Steelers will focus on shutting down Forsett and will be helped in that regard by the return of nose tackle Steve McLendon. But if the Steelers don't limit the run, they'll allow the Ravens to throw deep, and probably comfortably, with new numbers two and three CBs Brice McCain and Antwon Blake on the hot seats.
One of the more studious media members watches game tape and was asked after one long session in the film room what he thought: "Well, the Steelers have gotten better and the Ravens have gotten worse since the last time," was his final summation. But is that worth 20 points? I'm going to say it is, because the Steelers are on a roll. In fact, their Thursday practice was one of the most energetic and loud -- in terms of overexuberant communications -- that they've had in years. The team is ready. Can they block Dumervil and McPhee? And can they cover the Smith boys? I think so: Steelers, 30-24.
BY THE NUMBERS
75: Joe Greene's number, which will be retired officially at halftime.
72: The number Greene was issued upon reporting to training camp in 1969. Ken Kortas, who was wearing 75 at the time, was cut prior to the season and Greene found his new jersey in his locker the next day.
70: The only other number retired by the Steelers, belonging of course to Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner, a defensive end from 1951-63.
30: The Steelers lead the NFL with 30 points scored in drives that begin with two minutes or less left in the half.
* The Steelers are 31st in the league in kickoff return average at 16.1. In records going back to 1944, the all-time franchise low is 16.9 yards per kickoff return. That, surprisingly, occurred in 1993 with Rod Woodson as the primary returner. Woodson averaged 19.6 that year, and in his best years, 1987 and 1989, he averaged 27.3 per return. That's still almost two full yards per return less than what LeGarrette Blount averaged last season (29.1) with the New England Patriots. Blount replaced struggling rookie Dri Archer last week and returned one for only 15 yards. "(We) didn’t get the type of results that we were looking for, so obviously we’ll look back at it with a larger scope potentially this week," said Tomlin, opening the door for the possible use of former Pro Bowl kickoff returner Antonio Brown.
* Smith, a big, thick cornerback who was drafted in the first round by the Ravens in the 2011 draft, is out, but a potentially more impactful injury awaits for the Ravens, who have listed right guard Marshal Yanda as questionable with a knee injury. Said Tomlin: "The (Ravens') offensive line has been solid and steady. Marshal Yanda is playing really good football. He appears to be a man for situations when they need him. Things are going behind him; he’s a puller. He is a lead blocker in situational football. He is just a really good football player."
* Le'Veon Bell has set a Steelers team record for most yards from scrimmage through the first eight games of the season with 1,086. He ranks second in the NFL behind DeMarco Murray, who's gained 1,293 yards of total offense for the Dallas Cowboys.
* Roethlisberger's prolific statistical output last Sunday propelled him to second in the NFL with 206 completions and 2,380 passing yards, fourth with a 105.6 passer rating, fifth in the AFC with 16 touchdown passes, and first in the NFL with 23 pass plays of 25 or more yards.
* Roethlisberger is 40-14 against AFC North opponents. But since 2012 he's only 7-5.
* One reason why that latter number might change is the emergence of Bryant, the fourth-round pick who's scored three touchdowns among the seven catches since he was activated two games ago. Why wasn't he activated earlier? "There is a lot of trust that is placed on a guy who's playing outside in the NFL, specifically between him and the quarterback," said Haley. "But I do think that once he got back in pads (from injury) and he was working, and he wasn’t getting a helmet, but it was clear to everybody that he was on his stuff and working. And when he got opportunities in practice he was getting the job done the way it is expected to get done. So it was kind of just the process and evolution of a young guy being ready to play, and he stepped in and made plays. He is far from a finished product but he did come in and make some big plays for us."
* Two years ago, the Steelers chose Cortez Allen over Keenan Lewis as the future LCB of the franchise, but two games ago Allen was demoted to nickel back, and late last game he was demoted to the No. 4 CB spot on the depth chart. How can he regain his confidence? "Well, having been an old corner myself," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, "a corner learns to live alone. He has to believe in himself and just go out there and play and work on everything he’s doing. You have to believe in yourself to play corner and I think Cortez does. I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s just got to produce and get out there and make some plays."
GRAPHIC: ALL THE BUZZ
Chuck Noll was hired in 1969 and made Greene his first draft pick and thus Greene became the cornerstone of the turnaround of what had been a moribund franchise.
The Eras = The Records
* Pre-Greene (1933-68) = Steelers 161-254-19 (.393)
* Greene (1969-81)=Steelers 117-72-1 (.618)
* Post-Greene (1982-present)=Steelers 301-210-1 (.589)
“I grew up in Alabama and I loved the intensity of the Alabama-Auburn game. But this game is 10 times that."
-- Steve McLendon, NT, on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.