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Ravens sack Roethlisberger nine times, shut out the Steelers

Nov 26, 2006 - 9:06 PM BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- The Baltimore Ravens may have put the punctuation mark on a miserable season for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl just nine months ago, Roethlisberger was sacked nine times and committed three turnovers as the Ravens extended their winning streak to five games with a 27-0 victory over the Steelers in a battle of AFC North rivals.

Baltimore improved to 9-2 for the first time in franchise history and remained three games ahead of second-place Cincinnati. The teams meet Thursday in Cincinnati.

"The plane for Cincinnati leaves in five hours, I think," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's the next step. But this was an incredible win for us. This is a special group of players that are making a name for themselves."

The loss virtually ends any chance the Steelers (4-7) have of returning to the playoffs. Last season, Pittsburgh won its last four regular-season games to earn the last wild-card spot before winning four playoff contests.

But now it appears the Steelers will become the first Super Bowl champion to fail to make the playoffs the following season since the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"This was a pitiful performance today. I accept full responsibility for that," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "They outcoached us and I was very disappointed. We couldn't get anything going on offense. So where we go from here is line it up and play this thing out."

Baltimore may be thinking Super Bowl after another dominant defensive performance. Ranked second in the NFL in defense, the Ravens were all over Roethlisberger and bottled up Willie Parker.

"They (the Ravens) got after it," Roethlisberger said. "They throw so many different things at you, it's tough to pick up. Not just for me, but for the linemen and everyone else. So a lot of those sacks were probably my fault. You know, not throwing to the hot read or something."

It was the second shutout of the campaign for the Ravens and marked the first time the Steelers have been shut out twice in a season since 1989. Pittsburgh was blanked by Jacksonville, 9-0, in Roethlisberger's first start of the season.

Since winning the Super Bowl last February, Roethlisberger suffered serious facial injuries in a motorcycle accident in June, underwent an emergency appendectomy four days before the season opener and suffered a concussion in an October 22 loss at Atlanta.

On Sunday, he was treated like a punching bag by the Ravens, who matched a franchise high with their nine sacks.

"They beat us with schemes, they beat us with one-on-one, and they pretty much dominated on the line of scrimmage," Cowher said.

One of the sacks was a vicious hit by linebacker Bart Scott that briefly forced Roethlisberger to leave the game in the second quarter.

"That's probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life," Roethlisberger said. "I didn't see the guy coming. He came clean, hit me front side, and I just kind of remember my head hitting the ground. It just knocked the wind out of me and I couldn't breathe very well."

Defensive ends Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce each had two sacks and Scott recorded 1 1/2.

But the most damaging sack was by Corey Ivy, who came in on a safety blitz and stripped the ball from Roethlisberger. Linebacker Adalius Thomas recovered the fumble and raced 57 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 24-0 with 4:46 left in the third quarter.

"We put on a lot of pressure and our secondary covered guys today like never before," Thomas said.

Thomas and middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned after missing two games due to back problems, each had a sack.

"It's a big difference when you have No. 52 back in the middle," Suggs said of the return of Ray Lewis. "He's our general and makes us turn it loose."

Roethlisberger finished 21-of-41 for 214 yards with two interceptions. Parker was limited to 22 yards on 10 carries.

"I thought we would come in here and get a win," Parker said. "We knew what was at stake. They kept blitzing and blitzing. They were blitzing out of formations they weren't supposed to be blitzing out of. They would leave guys free, but we were having a hard time with the blitz."

Baltimore dominated from start to finish, outgaining the Steelers, 215-36, in the first half, when it built a 17-0 lead.

Steve McNair was 13-of-17 for 121 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He attempted just seven passes in the second half, completing five for 19 yards.

"We just went out there and executed in all three phases," McNair said. "We're not an explosive offense, but we're getting better each week."

McNair hit tight end Todd Heap with a 20-yard touchdown pass just 4:40 into the game.

Jamal Lewis scored on a one-yard run with 4:21 left in the second quarter and Matt Stover kicked a 37-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining in the half.

Lewis rushed for 61 yards on 13 carries in the first half. He carried the ball just four times for five yards in the second half.

"We got the upper hand and we started out fast," Lewis said. "The line opened up some big holes for me. It was impossible for me not to see them."

Stover kicked a 40-yard field goal with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter to complete the rout.






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