Ben Roethlisberger tied a Steelers record with five touchdown passes and linebacker James Harrison looked like Greg Lloyd and Jack Ham rolled into one as the Steelers humbled the Baltimore Ravens, 38-7, last night in Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger left the game briefly in the third quarter with a hip injury when linebacker Terrell Suggs shoved him out of bounds after he completed a pass. Charlie Batch replaced him, but Roethlisberger returned to start the fourth quarter after missing just six plays.
James Harrison ran wild against Baltimore last night:
Roethlisberger handed off twice and was sacked on that series and coach Mike Tomlin sent Batch back in with 11:37 to go and the Steelers leading by 31.
Wearing their throwback jerseys and playing before their 75th season all-time team, the Steelers ran out to a 35-7 halftime lead and sat on the Ravens the rest of the way.
They played as well last night as any of those previous 74 teams. It's not likely any of the 33 players on their all-time team who was introduced at halftime had a better half than Roethlisberger and Harrison.
Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes of 15 and 35 yards to Santonio Holmes, two more to Nate Washington of 30 and 7 yards and one to Heath Miller of 17.
The victory lifted the Steelers (6-2) two games over Baltimore (4-4), the defending AFC North Division champions, and one game over their opponent next week, the Cleveland Browns (5-3).
It was a different Roethlisberger and a different Steelers team than the one that lost to Baltimore twice last season by a combined 58-7 score. Roethlisberger was sacked 14 times in those two games, and many of the Steelers admitted this week they were confused by Baltimore's defense and unprepared.
They changed that script around quickly last night.
Their first three touchdowns drives, all covering three plays, were set up by Baltimore turnovers.
In the first half alone, Harrison had 2 1/2 of his 3 1/2 sacks in the game, an interception, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hurries. Three of the turnovers he was involved in set up three touchdown drives.
Baltimore scored just before halftime when Willis McGahee ran 33 yards for a touchdown.
The Steelers struck early and often and did not miss out on many of their opportunities, although it all began with one dropped interception.
Two plays after cornerback Ike Taylor dropped a pass thrown right at him by Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair, James Harrison made up for it.
Harrison hit the triple -- he sacked McNair, forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball after several players had it squirt away from them on the wet evening.
The Steelers took over at Baltimore's 20 and it took Roethlisberger three plays to put the turnover to good use. On third-and-7, Roethlisberger squirmed away from a potential sack by defensive end Trevor Pryce, who had the quarterback around both shoulders. He moved to his left, spotted Miller wide open in the end zone and threw across his body for a 17-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
A second Baltimore turnover led to a second Roethlisberger touchdown pass.
Harrison created the second turnover as well, this time on a Steelers punt. He stripped return man Ed Reed of the ball and rookie Lawrence Timmons recovered at Baltimore's 28.
Three plays and two Baltimore penalties later, the Steelers were up, 14-0, when Roethlisberger pinpointed a perfect pass through two defensive backs and into Holmes' hands in the back middle of the end zone.
The Ravens made it three series, three lost fumbles in the first quarter when safety Troy Polamalu blitzed and stripped halfback Willis McGahee of the ball. Safety Anthony Smith recovered at the Baltimore 36.
Again, three plays later and the Steelers had their third touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Roethlisberger escaped the pocket on third down and ran to his right as Suggs missed a diving tackle at his feet. He found Washington wide open in the right corner of the end zone and whipped him a pass for a 30-yard touchdown.
Another big defensive play helped put the Steelers in good position for a fourth touchdown in the half and once again, Harrison was there to make it.
He broke through at Baltimore's McNair, forced another fumble for a sack and then tackled Willis McGahee at the 3 for a 17-yard loss.
That helped the Steelers gain possession at the 50 after a punt, and this time it took them all of six plays to score and it came on third down again. Holmes appeared to have caught a touchdown on the first play but officials ruled he had dropped the ball in the left part of end zone.
Holmes made it stand up when he beat cornerback Derrick Martin on the right side of the end zone to gather in a 35-yard touchdown pass and a 28-0 lead.
Neither Roethlisberger nor James Harrison were finished and neither was the first half.
Harrison picked off a McNair pass and returned it 20 yards to the Baltimore 44. It took Roethlisberger five plays to convert it into seven points. Washington caught this one for the first two-score game of his career, from 7 yards along the right sideline in the end zone and a 35-0 lead.
Baltimore finally scored after the Steelers allowed another big kickoff return, this one for 52 yards. On the first play from scrimmage, McGahee ripped off the right for a 33-yard touchdown.
About the only thing the Steelers could not do last night was run. They tried, but Willie Parker gained only 42 yards on 23 carries.
Jeff Reed kicked a 22-yard field goal for the only points of the second half.
Baltimore coach Brian Billick finally pulled McNair early in the fourth quarter. He completed 13 of 22 passes for only 63 yards.
Single-game touchdown passes
Ben Roethlisberger tied the Steelers' record for most TD passes in a game.
Career touchdown passes
Ben Roethlisberger is in second place on the team's all-time list.
First Published November 6, 2007 4:15 AM