Rejuvenating bye week didn't work; Ravens, McNair appeared old again

The Baltimore Sun

PITTSBURGH -- The Ravens still have some life in them, but it's draining away.

On a night when the Ravens had to win to climb back into playoff contention, the Pittsburgh Steelers mangled them on national TV.

I'm sure there will be a lot of positive spin at The Castle today from coach Brian Billick, and the Ravens will talk about going on a run, but don't expect anyone to listen.

This was supposed to be a rejuvenated team after the one-week bye. Quarterback Steve McNair was supposed to be fresh. The running game was supposed to improve with three starters back on the offensive line. The pass rush and defense was going to get better because defensive end Trevor Pryce was healthy again.

Well, maybe that all takes place next week. Or next season. The Steelers beat the Ravens like they owned them last night. McNair looked old again, and so did the offensive line. The Ravens actually had a pass rush but no one could track down Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The Ravens are breathing but there is little life left - not enough to beat an Indianapolis or New England. Maybe not enough to beat the Cleveland Browns.

Knockout game

The hit of the game came late in the second quarter. Steelers running back Willie Parker took a pass in the left flat from Roethlisberger, and wide receiver Hines Ward peeled back to crush Ravens outside linebacker Bart Scott on a block.

Scott bounced up off the ground like a rubber ball. Ward also decked Ravens safety Ed Reed later in the quarter. Ward had more knockouts than Muhammad Ali.

Familiar faces

The Steelers celebrated the 75th anniversary of the franchise in Pittsburgh last night, and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene came to midfield for the opening coin toss.

Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher also was on the sideline before the game getting the Steelers fired up. He was slapping butts, high-fiving and spitting on the players just like old times.

You knew it was going to be an emotional night in Pittsburgh when coach Mike Tomlin came out before the team during pre-game introductions and started shadow boxing before he picked up his headphones.

Missed opportunities

The Ravens were the victims of a lot of hard luck. Several times they had a chance to sack Roethlisberger, and several times he got away to make big plays.

The omen came on Pittsburgh's first touchdown of the game. Pryce had Roethlisberger but couldn't wrap him up because of a cast on his hand.

Roethlisberger escaped to throw a 17-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to tight end Heath Miller.

Think outside the box

McNair doesn't like to run outside the pocket anymore, but he might need to rethink that.

A couple of times he evaded the rush, got outside the pocket and tried to pass. Instead, he lost the ball. McNair and the Ravens might be better off if he took off running.

McNair has been beat up over the years, but there's no use taking the team down with him.

What's the rush?

Those Steelers fans are so cocky. Half the stadium had emptied out at the half with Pittsburgh ahead 35-7. There is no way I could close my eyes on the Ravens' highly explosive offense.

And what, miss all those swing passes to running back Willis McGahee?

QB changeup

What, no Kyle Boller?

Sorry, Steve, but if I were Billick, I would have pulled McNair for Boller when McNair threw the interception with four minutes left in the first half.

Nearly two minutes later, the Steelers scored again, and it was 35-0. The Ravens had nothing to lose at that point, so McNair should have been on the sideline wearing a baseball cap.

Cheap shots

Roethlisberger had to leave the game with 6:02 left in the third quarter after being pushed down by Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs.

Suggs didn't get a penalty, but he should have. It was definitely a cheap shot, and a late hit. I understand the emotion of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, but all the talking, pushing and fighting was too much after a while.

When you get whipped like the Ravens did, you should go quietly into the night.

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