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An 8:30 p.m. start, tailgaters sucking down beers in the parking lots hours earlier, Baltimore fans and Pittsburgh fans wearing their colors and jawing at each other ... the Ravens-Steelers game Sunday night definitely had the potential for mayhem.

Alcohol was flowing and IQs were lowering everywhere you looked.

But the strangest sight of the whole evening was Ravens fans and Steelers fans trying to outdo each other in the towel-waving department once the game started.

Steelers fans waved their Terrible Towels and Ravens fans waved their, um ... well, whatever you want to call those purple-and-white towels the Ravens handed out to their fans.

Unlike Steelers fans, Ravens fans aren't notorious towel-wavers. Which is a good thing, since a lot of the ones I observed didn't have the whole towel-waving thing down pat.

Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, maybe it was the effect of all that beer.

But whatever it was, the Ravens fans I watched seemed to wave the things halfheartedly, as if they felt slightly embarrassed by the whole exercise.

I kind of felt embarrassed for them, if you want to know the truth.

-Kevin Cowherd

The Schmuck Stops Here

Ravens: head game

It might sound a little odd, but you have to wonder whether the absence of Ben Roethlisberger from the Steelers' active roster actually translated into a more confident Ravens offensive unit in the first half.

Sure, you could point to the fact that Troy Polamalu was not in the Steelers' defensive backfield - which would make a lot more sense - but the Ravens came out much more relaxed and quickly ended their long first-half touchdown drought.

Maybe the offense would have performed better anyway, since there was plenty of room for improvement after five losses in seven games, but I don't think so. I think the concussion that sidelined Big Ben provided a huge mental boost for everyone in a purple shirt, including those in the announced crowd of 71,314.

Trouble is, it didn't translate into a big early lead. No. 3 Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon, who was supposed to be overmatched with just one brief NFL appearance, held his own and took advantage of a porous Ravens secondary to keep the game close at intermission.

- Peter Schmuck

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