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Steelers can't forget '06

The Baltimore Sun

PITTSBURGH -- First-year Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin watched the tapes of last season's blowout defeats to the Ravens in the process of learning more about his own team as well as its next opponent.

As for the Steelers who played in the 27-0 bashing at M&T; Bank Stadium and the subsequent 31-7 humiliation at Heinz Field, the experience was painful enough without reliving it.

"It's good to have short-term memory loss," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said before practice here yesterday.

In preparing for Monday night's home game against the Ravens, the Steelers are getting ready for the team that won the AFC North last season and finished 13-3 overall, not the one that is 0-2 in the division and 4-3 overall.

"They're relentless, they're tough," second-year offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "They're the Baltimore Ravens. You get what you see. I think it's going to be a blood bath."

Tomlin has coached against the Ravens just twice before - Tampa Bay beat Baltimore in 2001 and 2002 when Tomlin was the Buccaneers' defensive backs coach - but he is beginning to understand the nature of one of the NFL's most heated rivalries.

"The dislike is probably something that sizzles and sells," said Tomlin, whose team is 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the division. "The reality is that it's a hot matchup because it is generally two good football teams that play football in a similar style."

Pittsburgh's losses to the Ravens last year were by far the most one-sided in an 8-8 season that led to longtime coach Bill Cowher's decision to resign one year after winning the Super Bowl.

Is payback on the Steelers' minds?

"I don't think it's payback, but I think you can kind of learn from those two games last year," tight end Heath Miller said. "They took it to us pretty good, and it's pretty evident when you watch the tapes that they were a better team than us. They outplayed us. They were more physical than we were. We know we've got our hands full."

The Steelers were a combined 3-for-26 in third-down situations, largely because the Ravens forced them to pass the ball. Roethlisberger was a combined 36-for-72 for 370 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions.

Roethlisberger was sacked 14 times, nine of them in the first game.

Running back Willie Parker rushed for 22 yards on 10 carries in the first game, improving to just 29 yards on 13 carries in the second.

"It just snowballed, and it just kept coming," six-time All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said. "It played into what they like to do on third down - confusion - and they were doing it on first and second downs, as well."

Veteran wide receiver Hines Ward has a longer memory. In 2005, the teams played two competitive games, with the Steelers winning the first at home, 20-19, and the Ravens taking the second, 16-13, in overtime. Pittsburgh went on to win the Super Bowl.

It didn't make a difference last year, just as Hines does not expect last year to have any impact Monday night.

"A new year is a new year," Ward said. "We know what's at stake. We know what kind of ballclub they have. It's going to be a physical ballgame. Monday night, prime time, we've got to match the intensity they set. If we do that, we'll be fine."

A little short-term memory loss for the Steelers might help.


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