Secondary just can't catch up

The Baltimore Sun

PITTSBURGH -- The secondary looked ordinary.

Assigned with the task of containing the Pittsburgh Steelers' aerial attack, the Ravens defense faltered in a 38-7 loss to the AFC North leaders.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and threw for five touchdowns - matching the franchise record of five surrendered to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 23, 2003.

Roethlisberger took advantage of a secondary that was forced to play without starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister (strained right knee) and Samari Rolle (illness).

Corey Ivy and Derrick Martin started in their places, and David Pittman filled in as the nickel back. But they could not stop Roethlisberger, who completed touchdown passes of 35, 30, 17, 15 and 7 yards - all in the first half.

"They just had a nice scheme," Martin said. "It's the NFL, and you've got to be perfect."

Martin seemed to take the brunt of the blows, getting beat on the 35-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes and teaming with strong safety Dawan Landry in a futile attempt to chase down Nate Washington on the 30-yard scoring pass.

"I played like [crap]," Martin said. "He [Roethlisberger] played real well, and I didn't."

Pittman was sealed off by Holmes when he caught the 15-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Ivy was flagged for pass interference. Pittman, who suffered a head injury, did not play the entire second half.

"It's going to be a tough job for them," said coach Brian Billick, who was in no mood to dissect the play of the secondary.

It's unclear whether McAlister or Rolle will be ready for Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but Pittman said the secondary will have a lot to review this week.

"We weren't executing the way we were supposed to," said Pittman, who complained of a headache. "We've just got to do what we're supposed to do."

Rare run

Willis McGahee joined an exclusive group last night.

McGahee became only the second opposing running back to score a rushing touchdown against the Steelers when he went 33 yards to the end zone with 1:33 left in the second quarter.

Pittsburgh, which had entered last night's contest as the fourth-toughest defense to run against, had surrendered just one touchdown on the ground, to the Arizona Cardinals' Edgerrin James on Sept. 30.

The touchdown, however, carried little meaning for McGahee, who left the game in the fourth quarter with 50 yards on 12 carries when safety Troy Polamalu's knee crashed into the Raven's helmet during a blitz.

"I don't know," Billick said when asked about the severity of the injury McGahee suffered.

Deactivated players

Besides McAlister and Rolle, tight ends Todd Heap (strained hamstring) and Daniel Wilcox (sprained toe) were deactivated last night.

Quinn Sypniewski made his third start in the past four weeks, and Lee Vickers was promoted from the practice squad. Heap has missed three of the past four Ravens games.

The team also deactivated running backs Mike Anderson and Cory Ross and linebacker Antwan Barnes and designated rookie Troy Smith as the emergency (third) quarterback.

The Steelers deactivated two starters: defensive end Aaron Smith (knee) and safety Ryan Clark (spleen).

Harrison's revenge

Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who was cut by the Ravens in 2004, had a huge role in the defensive demolition of the Ravens.

His sack and strip of quarterback Steve McNair and subsequent fumble recovery on the Ravens' first series led to Roethlisberger's first touchdown pass, to tight end Heath Miller. Harrison then hit Reed on a punt return, causing a fumble that led to Holmes' touchdown reception.

In the second quarter, Harrison sacked and stripped McNair again, driving the Ravens back until they were forced to punt from their 2-yard line. On the Ravens' next series, Harrison had interception. He finished with 3 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles, a recovered fumble and an interception.

End zone

Ravens rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs sprained his right knee during a kickoff return in the second quarter, but he said he does not think the injury would be serious enough to keep him from playing in Sunday's game. Rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess suffered a bruised quadriceps. His status is unclear. ... The Ravens dropped to 6-3 in the week after the bye during Billick's tenure as coach. ... The Steelers haven't lost at home on a Monday night since Oct. 14, 1991, when the New York Giants prevailed, 23-20. That's a streak of 12 consecutive victories.

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