Grbac didn't receive any support. His receivers dropped six passes and his offensive line flinched in the midst of countless blitzes. His team's running game sputtered for only 22 yards.

"I am not going to sit here and place all the blame on Elvis," Sharpe said. "Offensively, nobody came to play today."

A dejected Grbac took the loss personally. He was signed this past off-season to replace Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer and admittedly fell short of expectations.

"When I got here, the only mind-set is to win the championship," said Grbac, whose contract will be extended for three years if the Ravens pick up a $6 million signing option in March. "If you come up short, you're a failure.

"I hope I'm back. We've got a good football team, and I believe we've got a good offense. We'll see."

The Ravens looked to re-create last season's Super Bowl magic midway through the third quarter, when Jermaine Lewis had an NFL-postseason-record, 88-yard punt return for a score. The Ravens' only touchdown closed the deficit to 20-10 with 7:18 left in the third quarter.

After the Steelers went three and out on offense, Grbac misfired on all three of his throws on the next Ravens' series. Pittsburgh then answered with a 12-play, 83-yard drive, which was capped by Plaxico Burress' 32-yard touchdown catch. Burress took advantage of miscommunication between Woodson and McAlister to increase Pittsburgh's lead to 27-10 just 49 seconds into the fourth quarter.

"That was a pivotal point," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's something that could have turned on a single play had we been able to make something happen. But we didn't."

Said Woodson: "We blew a coverage to give them a touchdown. That's what I'm going to remember the most out of this game."

That memory signaled the end of the Ravens' title defense as a season of hard knocks closed with the most painful fall of all, a defending champs' worst postseason defeat since Washington's 38-9 Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984.

"You ride it as long as you can ride it, but you know it comes to an end sometime," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That day has come for us now."