Champs' reign over

The Ravens' shutout over the Steelers last month was no fluke. The Ravens came back and stuffed the Steelers in their own building Sunday, 31-7, to end the Steelers' playoff hopes. Steve McNair was the big reason.

PITTSBURGH – Amidst the wreckage and finality of the Baltimore Ravens' 31-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brett Keisel made sure reporters understood that the other guys get paid, too.

"Baltimore's got a great team," Keisel said. "You've got to give credit to them."

But, how did the Ravens get so great all of the sudden?

Keisel paused a moment before answering.

"Steve McNair," he said. "Steve McNair. I mean, look at the plays he made today. He was unstoppable today."

McNair was indeed unstoppable, or the opposite of the Steelers' quarterback. While McNair stood in the pocket in the face of the rush, delivered strike after strike, and took lick after lick, Ben Roethlisberger allowed the Ravens' pass rush to get inside his head. He was asked that very question: Ben, did the Ravens' pass rush get in your head a little bit?

"No," he said. "I think our offensive line did a great job tonight."

That may or may not have been true, but Roethlisberger, even when he wasn't pressured, was skittish.

In the biggest game of the year, Roethlisberger completed 15 of 31 passes for 156 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating was 47.2.

He was sacked five times, or just over half of the nine sacks he absorbed from the Ravens in the previous meeting. Perhaps there was good reason Roethlisberger never felt comfortable it he pocket.

"For the first time in a long time, I felt not quite on the same page as the receivers," he said. "That's a shame because that's something we pride ourselves in: Being on the same page and being able to make things happen."

Roethlisberger and the offense were off-kilter from the first snap, when Willie Parker went the wrong way and Roethlisberger was dumped for no gain. The third-down pass was batted away, the first of several to come.

Roethlisberger missed receivers on third down plays without a pass rush, and was of course sacked on other third downs. He scrambled from the pocket too early at times and too late at other times. The Steelers didn't convert a third down until a wild incompletion was saved by a pass interference penalty last in the third quarter. Another penalty on an incompletion later in the drive gave the Steelers their only two third-down conversions out of 14 attempts. in two games against the Ravens, the Steelers were three of 26 on third downs.

Fourth down wasn't much better for Roethlisberger. With 3:53 left in the third quarter, and the Steelers down 21-7, Bill Cowher opted to go for it on fourth-and-two from the Steelers' 37. Roethlisberger threw a flat-footed pass that was batted incomplete by Bart Scott. McNair, on the other hand, wasn't lacking for any confidence. One play after converting a fourth-and-one with a second effort lunge on a sneak, McNair stood in the face of a Larry Foote blitz and delivered a strike to Mark Clayton for a 35-yard touchdown.

McNair pushed the lead to 14-0 with a one-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Wilcox, and his third touchdown pass, a 25-yard strike to Demetrius Williams with Joey Porter in his face, broke the Steelers' backs to start the third quarter.

"That one was tough," said Keisel. "We wanted to go out in the second half and start strong, but he made some huge throws under pressure. He got his receiver and they went from there. It was; it was a killer."

The 33-year-old McNair finished with 21 completions in 31 attempts for 256 yards, three touchdowns and the admiration of his 24-year-old counterpart.

"He made a couple great throws tonight," Roethlisberger said. "Charlie [Batch] and I and Brian [St. Pierre] sat over there and on a couple of throws we were like, ‘Wow, that's pretty impressive.'"

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