GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in the 38-7 win against the Ravens last night. The report is broken down into defensive and offensive positions and coaching.Quarterback: A+
Ben Roethlisberger tied a club record with five touchdown passes, all in the first half, and finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating -- a drastic contrast to his performance last season against the Ravens. He threw across his body on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller and made perfect throws on a pair of touchdowns to Santonio Holmes. He also escaped pressure for a 30-yard touchdown to Nate Washington.
Running backs: C+ There wasn't a lot of room to run against the NFL's No. 2 rush defense. Willie Parker was held to 42 yards on 23 carries and his longest run was 5 yards. But his biggest play, though, might have been picking up blitzing LB Ray Lewis on Roethlisberger's second touchdown pass. Najeh Davenport added 34 yards on 11 carries.
Santonio Holmes tortured the Ravens, who were playing without cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, catching a pair of first-half touchdowns and finishing with four catches for 110 yards. Nate Washington also caught a pair of touchdowns, including a 30-yarder. Hines Ward had four catches, and he also had a crushing block on LB Bart Scott.
Offensive line: B-
Even though the Steelers didn't rush for a lot of yards, the line did a good job to get some movement on a sloppy field. The Steelers finished with 90 yards rushing on 37 attempts before Charlie Batch kneeled for the final two plays. And, after being sacked 14 times in two games last season, Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, both in the first half, even though he was under heavy pressure.
Defensive line: A
The line got good pressure on Steve McNair, especially end Brett Keisel, and held down running back Willis McGahee for most of the first half until a 33-yard touchdown run. The Ravens finished with 64 yards rushing, 50 by McGahee, on 14 attempts. End Travis Kirschke, who started for injured Aaron Smith, also got a sack.
James Harrison played a game worthy of the 75th anniversary team, getting 2 1/2 sacks, forcing three fumbles, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble, all in the first half. His turnovers led to 21 points. Harrison finished with 3 1/2 sacks and nine tackles. The Ravens converted just 3 of 15 third-down opportunities, largely because the linebackers took away the underneath.
The pressure forced McNair into a lot of bad throws, making life in the secondary pretty easy. The Ravens' longest pass completion was 9 yards. Cornerback Ike Taylor dropped an easy interception and safety Anthony Smith missed a tackle on McGahee's 33-yard touchdown run. But safety Troy Polamalu re-emerged with several big plays, including a forced fumble that led to a touchdown.
Special teams: C
Two long kickoff returns of 33 and 52 yards highlighted some of the continuing problems in kick coverage. The latter set up the Ravens' first touchdown. But James Harrison forced a fumble on a punt that led to the second touchdown and Allen Rossum returned a punt 49 yards, his longest of the season.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gets the credit for having the offense prepared to handle the Ravens' stunting defensive schemes. What's more, he wasted no time attacking the Ravens injury-ravaged secondary. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau put the heat on McNair with a series of blitzes, especially in the first half. But why put an injured Roethlisberger back in the game in the fourth quarter?