For those on the east coast that enjoy being able to watch the outcome of Monday Night Football and still hit the sack at a decent hour, your wish was granted Monday night. The outcome of the Steelers-Ravens game was never in doubt, and by halftime many TV sets across the country were turned off as the Steelers dominated the team that many thought would win the AFC North, slamming the Ravens 38-7 on a soggy night at Heinz Field.
The game was marked by two key players for the Steelers, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has continued to play well all season, tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes. The five TD passes all came in the first half when the team built the huge lead as they went in the locker room up 35-7. The other star of the night was little known linebacker James Harrison, who took the spot of former disruptive linebacker Joey Porter when he was released by the team last spring. Harrison was all over the field, with 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and an interception.
“I haven’t seen anyone play a game like that since high school — not in college of the NFL,” Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said of Harrion’s monster night. “But we knew we were going to dominate. You could just tell in practice.” Foote was right, as the Ravens fumbled three times in the first quarter, losing them all, and it turned into 21 Steelers points. Roethlisberger hit tight end Heath Miller for a 17-yard score with 7:17 left in the first quarter after a Steve McNair fumble, caused by Harrison, and the route was on.
Later in the quarter he hit Santonio Holmes for his first of two TD catches to make it 14-0. Early in the second quarter he found a wide open Nate Washington for a 30-yard score to make it 21-0. Holmes pulled in his second TD with 5:40 left in the half to make it 28-0, and then Washington caught his second TD pass with 1:51 left in the first half to make it 35-0. The Ravens only score came on a 33-yard scamper from Willis McGahee 18 seconds after the Steelers made it 35-0.
The numbers of the contest were staggering, as one might consider. The Ravens were held to 5 first downs, 104 total yards, and 40 net yards passing. Their inability in the rain in Pittsburgh to get the ball down the field once again showed, and without their two starting cornerbacks, Chris McCallister and Samari Rolle, who were both hurt, their secondary didn’t stand a chance against Roethlisberger. McNair was awful all night, going 13-for-22 for 63 yards with one pick, and he was sacked five times for 37 yards.
The only not-so-good numbers for the Steelers came from their running game, as the Ravens stuffed Willie Parker, holding the back to just 42 yards on 23 carries, a 1.8 yards per carry average. Overall the Steelers ran for 90 yards on 39 carries, a 2.3 yards per carry average. Most of the second half though was just the Steelers rushing the ball and trying to keep their offense on the field as much as they could.
The AFC North leaders now seem to be in the drivers seat in the division. They sit at 6-2, and in the last two weeks have dispatched the Bengals and Ravens. Next up is the Cleveland Browns, who after being beaten badly opening day by the Steelers 34-7 have rebounded for a 5-3 record. The two teams have their second game in Pittsburgh this Sunday, and a Steelers win and they will be 4-0 in the AFC North, and have a two-game lead on the Browns with seven to play.
For the Ravens, their prospect of making the playoffs even as a wild card seem in heavy doubt today. Their offense lacks any sort of big play ability, and QB Steve McNair is showing his age every week as his body is just taking a beating behind an offensive line that simply has not been able to play together due to the injuries it has been hit with all season. If Baltimore is going to make a run at the postseason, it’s going to have to be with it’s defense, and they were no match for an inspired Steelers team on Monday night.