PITTSBURGH - The Ravens won here last year with explosive, big-play offense. They won here yesterday with dominant defense.

Consider this the start of a new era.

Where once this franchise routinely lost at Three Rivers Stadium to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a number of inventive ways, the Ravens yesterday distanced themselves forever from their Cleveland Browns past.

They did it with an oppressive pass rush, a magnificent goal-line stand and a stifling 16-0 victory over the Steelers in the season opener.

"This is my 11th year, and last year was the first time I won here," said defensive end Rob Burnett, the Ravens' elder statesman. "I can never come here and win. We've gotten to the fourth quarter and lost as the Browns and the Ravens, so this is really sweet."

Defense was clearly the order of the day. If this was a statement game, there was no better place to announce Baltimore's ascension as a dominant defensive force in the AFC than Pittsburgh.

"Everything we do got started here," said defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, a former Steelers coach and architect of the Ravens' attacking scheme. "There are a lot of reasons why we do what we do. We have respect for the way the Steelers run the ball, the way they play-action pass."

On a day hot enough to curl the toes of cornerback Chris McAlister, the Ravens unloosed a menacing pass rush at Steelers quarterback Kent Graham.

Pressured even on quick, three-step drops, Graham absorbed only one sack - that by Burnett - but his 17-for-38 passing performance spoke volumes about the havoc the Ravens raised and the direction they are headed.

"The quarterback stayed on his back the whole entire game," Steelers wide receiver Troy Edwards said of Graham's day.

And there was this from Steelers rookie offensive tackle Marvel Smith: "That was my first game, and they're pretty much the best the NFL has to offer."

The pass rush was so fierce that even when McAlister had to leave the game in the third quarter with cramps from dehydration, the Steelers couldn't capitalize.

"My toes were curling up in my shoes," the second-year cornerback said. "Everything below my waist was cramping up."

Not to worry. McAlister returned in time to help blunt the Steelers' biggest scoring threat in the fourth quarter, preserving the shutout. The domination was thorough and complete.

  Next for Ravens
Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

The Ravens didn't surrender a first down until the second quarter. They didn't let the Steelers cross the 50 until the third quarter. They didn't allow a third-down conversion until the third.

If stopping the Steelers' Jerome Bettis was critical, the Ravens succeeded beyond expectations. Bettis ran nine times for 8 yards, the low-water mark of his Steelers' career. The Steelers averaged 1.7 yards per carry on 18 attempts.

Pittsburgh had a collapsing pocket around Graham. No small part of that was due to new defensive tackle Sam Adams.

"I said all along that Sam would help us," Marvin Lewis said. "Having those guys inside who can push the pocket will wear down an offense. That's what you saw at the end."