Before the start of Sunday’s game in Baltimore it looked as though one team had followed the blueprint for continuity during the preseason and one team had rebuilt on the fly; after Sundays game it seemed as though both teams were heading in opposite directions.
The Ravens off season saw them cut many notable veterans and bring in new faces, hoping the team would gel quickly. The Steelers decided to stand pat, having just gone to the Super Bowl after another AFC Championship season; they re-signed their own players, trusting that their aging defense had a few more solid years left.
It was apparent after Baltimore’s first drive; the Steelers D had lost a step.
In three plays the Ravens got last year’s playoff loss at the hands of the Steelers off their back, in resounding fashion. First, an off-tackle run (the push led by newly minted and 30-pound lighter Bryant McKinnie) to the left, directly at the Steelers feared linebacker James Harrison; Rice gained 36 on the play. Followed two plays later by a 27-yard touch pass from Flacco to Boldin perfectly placed in the back of the end zone.
Ray Rice is the only running back to run for 100 yards against the Steelers since 2007, and he’s done it twice now. Rice finished with 107 yards with a TD on 19 carries, also grabbing 4 catches for 42 yards and a TD. As Rice goes so go the Ravens, and he didn’t disappoint in his first action in 2011.
At the half the score was 21-7, a score that haunted the Ravens all off season. The Ravens led by that same margin going into the half during the playoff loss to the Steelers. Turnovers and inconsistent play allowed the Steelers back into that game, and ultimately lost it for the birds. Not this time.
The Ravens kept piling on the points and harassing the Steelers offense in the third quarter. “We got beat into submission,” Steelers linebacker James Farrior said after the game. That’s music to the Ravens ears. They forced Big Ben Rothlisberger into three interceptions (two from Ed Reed), and forced four fumbles throughout the game; seven turnovers in all.
Terrelle Suggs notched three sacks and a forced fumble (becoming the Ravens all-time leading sack master with 71 and ½ sacks) while Haloti Ngata dominated the surprisingly shaky Steelers offensive line, forcing a fumble and tipping a pass that was intercepted by Ray Lewis.
It was a great win for the Ravens. The team came into the season with more questions than answers, but after Sunday’s performance the AFC North looks like theirs to lose. Still, it was only the first game of a long season, and the Ravens must stay hungry after beating their nemesis.
“This was a huge win for us against Pittsburgh today, but without us playing great in these next 15 games, it’s not going to mean anything,” Joe Flacco said after the game, and he’s right. For the Ravens to become a truly great team they need to dominate opponents, the same way they took it to the Steelers, every week.
For now, they look forward to next Sunday’s match up with the Titans.
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.