For the first time in four weeks yesterday, the Ravens enjoyed the benefits of a home game. Or did they?
Judging by the legions of Pittsburgh fans who took up entire sections of seats at Memorial Stadium, it was hard at times to distinguish which team was playing host.
At least one-quarter of the capacity crowd was pro-Pittsburgh, and those masses used their Terrible Towels and vocal cords effectively to distract the Ravens and drown out their fans. At several points, the Ravens -- and even Steelers coach Bill Cowher -- looked stunned as they watched several Pittsburgh players run to the closed end of the stadium and exhort their faithful by waving their arms.
"When we went ahead [in the fourth quarter] and we went to kick off and I looked down in the end zone and saw the colors and heard the cheers, I thought we were in Three Rivers [Pittsburgh's home]," Cowher said. "It's amazing the support we get from our fans. I don't know where they come from, but if you need a schedule, let us know and we'll send you one. And keep coming."
The Ravens were not amused.
"I don't know if it intimidated us or not. I don't think it did," Ravens center Quentin Neujahr said. "It really surprised me to see all of those Terrible Towels out there. I guess I don't remember that many being out here last year."
"It was impressive on their part to have such a large turnout," guard Leo Goeas said. "It seemed like we were playing an away game."
Ravens center Wally Williams said the last time he remembers visiting fans dominating the atmosphere at a home game was back in his college days at Florida A&M.;
"I've never seen anything like this in the NFL," Williams said.
As much as right cornerback Eugene Daniel raised his stock during his first start for the Ravens, left cornerback Antonio Langham's season took a downward turn during a rough second half.
Twice, Langham was beaten for touchdowns by Steelers wide receiver Charles Johnson.
Late in the third quarter, Johnson beat Langham into the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard score, when Langham failed to turn in time to break up the play. Then, with three minutes left in the game, Johnson ran hard into the end zone, stopped to separate himself from Langham, and caught a 17-yard touchdown strike from Kordell Stewart to give the Steelers a 34-24 lead.
"With the coverages we were in on those two plays, we couldn't ask for anything better," Langham said. "On the first one, I was there, but I had my back turned because of the way the coverage is designed. I didn't hear a ball call [from a teammate], and I couldn't see the ball.
"If we went back out there, suited up and ran the same defense, I couldn't do anything differently."
Ravens right defensive end Michael McCrary left no doubt about who was to blame for the Ravens' come-from-ahead, 42-34 defeat.
"This is on the defense. Once the offense got all of those points early, we shouldn't have put them in a position where they needed more," McCrary said. "It's rough when we keep giving up all of those big plays. We've got the talent, and we need to start taking advantage of it."
McCrary did his part by playing the finest game of his first season with the Ravens. He had eight tackles, one sack and gave Pittsburgh left tackle John Jackson fits with his quickness and bull-rushing. McCrary's health is seemingly approaching 100 percent, two months after his arthroscopic knee surgery.
"I'm getting there slowly, but I'm getting there," he said.
Hurts to think about
Ravens safety Bennie Thompson was his typically inspirational self, full of fire on special teams, for whom he recorded two solo tackles, including one after having his helmet knocked off.
The Ravens' second-half collapse affected Thompson possibly more than any other player. In the locker room afterward, he was disconsolate, He tried three different times to conduct a postgame interview, each time without success. Finally, he knocked over a chair and left the room in tears.
Offensive tackle Orlando Brown did not cry, but he barely made himself available for interviews.
"I ain't even going to sleep on this one," Brown said. "This one hurts."
In Steelers' face
Running back Bam Morris and tight end Eric Green, two Ravens who formerly played for the Steelers, made their presences felt early. Green scored the Ravens' first touchdown, when he beat linebacker Jason Gildon and hurdled cornerback Donnell Woolford to complete a 22-yard score. Then, with 4: 55 left in the first quarter, Morris rushed for a 1-yard touchdown for a 14-0 Ravens advantage.
Green, who battled a stomach virus that kept him on the sideline at times -- backup Brian Kinchen caught a first-half, 24-yard touchdown pass in his place -- finished with eight catches for 92 yards, both team highs.
Morris finished with 15 carries for 47 yards, and added three receptions for 25 yards. When asked why the Ravens chose to run the ball only 18 times, while passing 47 times -- despite leading the game for 50 minutes -- Morris shrugged.
"Maybe [the coaching staff] saw something upstairs in the box that we didn't see down on the field," he said.
Morris also suffered bruised ribs that required him to leave the game temporarily. X-rays were negative.
'And then some'
Coach Ted Marchibroda said the Ravens will concentrate on their running game among other "basics" during their bye week. He said he'll bring the team in Wednesday for three days of practice.
"I think it [the bye week] comes at a good time. We're not out of this. We're still 3-3, and we're still in the hunt [for a divisional title]," he said. "There are three words we live by: 'and then some.' You have to give -- and then some -- during the week. You have to give -- and then some -- in practice. You have to give -- and then some -- in the film room."
Two straight too many
Ravens rookie linebacker Peter Boulware, who played at Florida State, isn't used to losing two in a row.
"It hurts. It hurts bad. I hate losing," he said. "We can bounce back. We've got to put this behind us. The problem comes when you start dwelling on stuff like that."
The 21-point lead lost by the Ravens was the biggest blown advantage in the history of the franchise, while the Steelers' 21-point comeback equaled the greatest in their history. With his touchdown catch, Green has 30 for his career, the third-most by NFL tight ends in the 1990s. Ravens receiver Jermaine Lewis accounted for 205 all-purpose yards, the third time he has accomplished that this year. Second-year receiver James Roe did not catch a pass, but he replaced rookie Jay Graham (arm contusion) on kickoffs and had two returns for 49 yards. A sign that read "Ravens Need Bam Clean" was taken down from the bleachers during the first quarter. Steelers running back Jerome Bettis gained 137 yards, the second-highest rushing total of his career. Bettis has gained more than 100 yards in all three of his games against the Ravens. Thompson (hamstring), Tony Vinson (concussion) and receiver Michael Jackson (neck) also suffered injuries for the Ravens. Cowher, who played and coached in Cleveland, is 9-3 against the Browns/Ravens as Steelers coach.
Half and half
Quarterback Kordell Stewart shook off a horrendous first half to excel in the second and guide the Steelers over the Ravens:
Half ... Com. ... Att. ... Yds. ... TD ... Int.
1st ...... 7 ..... 14 ..... 65 ..... 0 ..... 3
2nd ..... 11 ..... 14 .... 181 ..... 3 ..... 0
Totals .. 18 ..... 28 .... 246 ..... 3 ..... 3
Half ... Att. ... Yds. ... Avg. ... TD .... LG
1st ...... 3 ...... 2 .... 0.7 ..... 1 ..... 2
2nd ...... 3 ..... 76 ... 25.3 ..... 1 .... 74
Totals ... 6 ..... 78 ... 13.0 ..... 2 .... 74