PITTSBURGH Hall of Famers galore lined the Steelers sideline, with Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and Franco Harris out front. No wonder the Baltimore Ravens probably thought they were playing all of them and the current day Steelers too.
Ben Roethlisberger tied the Steelers single-game record with five touchdown passes in the first half as Bradshaw stood nearby cheering him on, and Pittsburgh put on a Steel Curtain-like defensive show for its returning stars by forcing four turnovers before halftime in a 38-7 victory over Baltimore last night.
The Ravens (4-4) had a chance to tie for the AFC North lead by beating the Steelers (6-2) for a fourth straight time dating to 2005.
In reality, they had no chance at all.
The Steelers forced three fumbles in the first quarter alone, with James Harrison hitting safety Ed Reed so hard on a punt return that the ball flew nearly 15 feet before Pittsburgh recovered. Four plays later, Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes for 15 yards on the first of their two opening-half touchdown pass plays and a 14-0 Steelers lead. Holmes had 110 yards on four receptions.
Harrison, a one-time non-drafted free agent who became a starter after former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter was released during the offseason, seemed to torment Ravens quarterback Steve McNair on nearly every down. Harrison had two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception, and 2 sacks before halftime in a Jack Lambert-like performance. Former coach Bill Cowher got the crowd going by making a previously unannounced on-field appearance shortly before the opening kickoff as a steady rain fell, and the Steelers lived up to coach Mike Tomlin s pregame prediction they would feed off the noise and enthusiasm.
Harrison s hard hit caused Steve McNair to fumble on a third-down play on Baltimore s first possession, and Harrison recovered himself at the 20. Roethlisberger responded by stepping out of the Ravens pass rush to hit tight end Heath Miller on a 17-yard scoring pass midway through the first quarter.
Roethlisberger also threw two TD passes to Scott graduate Nate Washington.
Roethlisberger, still in the game with the Steelers holding a 28-point lead, was pushed to the turf by Terrell Suggs on a 45-yard completion to Holmes in the third quarter, but returned.