Steelers press offensive line

The Baltimore Sun

PITTSBURGH - In the Ravens' first two games, the offensive line enjoyed moderate success in the run and pass against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. That unit faced a much sterner test in the Pittsburgh Steelers, who provided a harsh rebuke in the Ravens' 23-20 overtime loss last night at Heinz Field.

The Steelers' defensive linemen and linebackers overwhelmed the Ravens' offensive line at times, sacking rookie quarterback Joe Flacco a season-worst five times and forcing two fumbles.

The first fumble was recovered by linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who returned the loose ball 7 yards for a touchdown and capped a 14-point swing in a 15-second span late in the third quarter.

"I thought they handled the pass rush adequately," coach John Harbaugh said. "There were some one-on-one type situations where the Steelers performed pretty well. But all in all we were solid."

The persistent pass rush employed by Pittsburgh got to Flacco, who began firing passes too early to avoid another sack and completed 16 of 31 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown.

The running lanes that had been opened against the Bengals and Browns quickly closed against the Steelers, who limited the Ravens to 103 yards on the ground. The offense had ranked second in the NFL in rushing with a 190-yard average.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had preached caution last week about raising expectations on an offensive line starting just its third game together.

"I don't know that we have put it all together yet," Cameron said. "I think we've been fortunate late in the game [against the Browns] to score for the most part, [and that] has given us the opportunity to be patient with the line. ... Are we anywhere close to where we want to be? Absolutely not. We're still growing as a unit, and we're really growing almost minute by minute on the offensive line."

McGahee update

Running back Willis McGahee left the game with 1:31 left in the second quarter with what appeared to be a right arm injury. McGahee, who carried the ball 12 times for 41 yards in the first half, had just plunged up the middle for 1 yard, but he lay on the turf for a few minutes. He got up and walked off the field to the locker room with trainer Bill Tessendorf holding McGahee's right arm curled to the shoulder.

But McGahee did return on the Ravens' second series of the second half with 6:44 left in the third quarter. He carried the ball just one time for 1 yard after halftime.

Fabian's debut

Cornerback Fabian Washington made his debut as a Raven last night. Sidelined through much of the preseason because of injuries involving a bulging disc in his neck and a balky hamstring, Washington started in place of Samari Rolle (right shoulder) opposite Chris McAlister. Washington recorded three tackles and was beaten twice, including by Santonio Holmes on his 38-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter. Ryan had seemed pessimistic about Washington's availability earlier in the week, but Washington was listed as probable in the team's final injury report.

Lineup changes

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan started for Kelly Gregg (left knee), while strong safety Jim Leonhard replaced Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion).In addition to Rolle, Gregg and Landry, the Ravens deactivated linebacker Nick Greisen (quad), cornerback Evan Oglesby and rookie offensive tackles Oniel Cousins and David Hale. Troy Smith (tonsil infection) was the third (emergency) quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steelers inserted four new starters. Rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall started in place of Willie Parker (knee), defensive tackle Chris Hoke replaced Casey Hampton (groin), defensive end Travis Kirschke filled in for Brett Keisel (calf), and cornerback Bryant McFadden started for Deshea Townsend (heel).In addition to Hampton, Keisel and Parker, the Steelers deactivated offensive tackles Trai Essex and Tony Hills, linebacker Donovan Woods and wide receiver Limas Sweed. Rookie Dennis Dixon was the third (emergency) quarterback.

End zone

Mendenhall was diagnosed with a fractured shoulder and may be lost for the rest of the season. ... The Steelers improved to 23-5 all time at home on Monday night and have won 14 consecutive contests. On the other hand, the Ravens dropped to 4-7 on Monday night and have lost their past five games. ... For the second time this season, the Ravens wore their white jerseys and black pants. The Steelers wore their throwback jerseys.

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