Asked whether the players are still responding to Billick, wide receiver Derrick Mason said: "I think we do. Not responding means going out there and not competing. The coaches can't do anything about the turnovers. That's upon the players to go out and protect the ball. We just didn't do that as a whole. You just can't blame that on one guy."

The tone of game was set midway through the first quarter by the quarterbacks. When faced with pressure, McNair fumbled and Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass.

On the Ravens' opening drive, McNair tried to throw while being hit by linebacker James Harrison (who was cut by the Ravens in 2004), and the ball slipped out of his grasp. It marked McNair's fifth fumble in his five starts this season.

Three plays later, Roethlisberger shrugged defensive lineman Trevor Pryce off of him, rolled to his right and threw a 17-yard pass to a wide-open Heath Miller in the end zone.

About 5 1/2 minutes after McNair's turnover, Ed Reed took a crushing hit by Harrison on a punt return. Harrison's helmet dislodged the ball and sent it high into the air and into the arms of Steelers rookie Lawrence Timmons.

After two defensive penalties (pass interference on Corey Ivy and illegal contact by Ray Lewis), Roethlisberger threaded a 15-yard touchdown pass between Reed and David Pittman to put Pittsburgh ahead 14-0.

On the Ravens' next series, running back Willis McGahee fumbled for the second time this season, getting stripped by safety Troy Polamalu. Three plays later, Roethlisberger eluded Terrell Suggs diving at his feet and heaved a 30-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington, who got 10 yards behind safety Dawan Landry.

Three fumbles turned into three Roethlisberger touchdown passes and a 21-0 lead 48 seconds into the second quarter.

Roethlisberger continued to pile on the touchdowns in the second quarter, picking on Derrick Martin (who was making his first start) for a 35-yard pass to Holmes and a 7-yarder to Washington.

That staked the Steelers to a 35-0 lead in the second quarter against a Ravens team that hadn't allowed more than 27 points in a game all season.

The Ravens avoided getting shut out in the first half when Musa Smith returned a kickoff 52 yards and McGahee ran 33 yards for a touchdown. But any fleeting hope of a turnaround was squashed when the half ended with McNair getting sacked and Adam Terry getting called for false start.

It might be too late for the Ravens to turn around their season. Sitting with a 4-4 record at the midway point of the season, the Ravens still have five remaining games against teams that either hold or share the lead in a division.

"[The players are] going to be disappointed and they're going to embarrassed," Billick said. "But this team has a lot of faith in itself. And they'll get ready for the next opponent."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com