Ben Roethlisberger, Ravens Killer?
As a rookie, Roethlisberger played his first NFL game in Baltimore, off the bench in relief of Tommy Maddox, who was injured during the game. It was the second game of the 2004 season and the Steelers lost.
Roethlisberger hasn't experienced much failure against the Ravens since then. He carries a 7-2 record into Sunday night's game against Baltimore as a starting quarterback, including his past five starts against the Ravens.
Of course, that does not include the fourth game of this season when Roethlisberger served the last of his four-game suspension to start the season and the Steelers and Charlie Batch lost at Heinz Field to the Ravens, 17-14.
Roethlisberger played the entire game in Sunday's overtime victory in Buffalo despite having what Mike Tomlin called a sprained foot.
"We have our quarterback back and usually we have a lot of success when Ben starts against Baltimore," Hines Ward declared.
All true. His winning streak stretches from the 2007 season and includes three victories against Baltimore in the '08 season, when he and the Steelers also beat the Ravens in the playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl.
During his career, Roethlisberger has missed three games against the Ravens because of injuries and the Steelers have lost them all, including '09 at Baltimore when he missed his only game that season because of a concussion.
Roethlisberger hasn't necessarily been at his best against the Ravens, statistically. With a career passer rating of more than 92, Roethlisberger had ratings of 75.2 against Baltimore last season, and 80.4 and 81.9 and 84.8 in 2008, all Steelers victories.
His only two losses against Baltimore came during the Steelers' 8-8 season of 2006.
It always seems to come down to this in the AFC North, Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore, winner takes all and the other takes the wild-card route to the playoffs.
"We're playing for the same thing every year," tight end Heath Miller said. "There's usually a lot on the line when we play each other. That usually adds to the games."
Except, that's not the way it has been at all. This season, in fact, is the exception to the rule as the co-leaders in the division clash in Baltimore with 8-3 records. The winner will hold the edge for the AFC North title and the loser still will look good for a wild-card playoff berth.
But the thought that these two bitter rivals always fight to the bitter end for supremacy in the AFC North is false. Since the Cleveland Browns morphed into the Baltimore Ravens for the 1996 season, only twice have both teams made the playoffs simultaneously, in 2001 and '08. Most of those 14 seasons one or the other team has been hopelessly out of the playoffs.
Last season, the teams tied with 9-7 records but Baltimore made it as a wild-card team and the Steelers did not.
Ward said the narrow victory Sunday might actually help them as they head to Baltimore.
"It's great to be out of here with this, to be 8-3. I don't know how we would have responded had we lost the ballgame. But I think the way we won, on the road, I think it's something we can build on and be ready when we go down to Baltimore.
"It's a big game but it's not going to make or break us. Both teams will have their opportunities to get in the playoffs."
Should Baltimore win, however, the Steelers would be hard-pressed to win the division. Because the Ravens would have the tiebreaker by virtue of their two victories against the Steelers, they would have to split their final four games and the Steelers would have to sweep their remaining four.
"We know what type of game it's going to be going into Baltimore," LaMarr Woodley said, "what type of offensive weapons they have. We just have to go out and play our game."
The Steelers play three of their final four games at home, finishing up Jan. 2 in Cleveland.
James Harrison, who might face yet another fine after another roughing the passer penalty against him Sunday, learned Monday that his appeals of two fines totaling $95,000 were rejected by the NFL.
Bill Parise, the agent for the Steelers' Pro Bowl linebacker, received an e-mail from the league office Monday afternoon telling him about the rejection of the appeal.
Three weeks ago, Harrison appealed a $75,000 fine the NFL issued him for what it called an illegal hit on Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi Oct. 17, and for another $20,000 fine for a hit on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees Oct. 31.
"They did not reduce it," Parise said. "They said it was multiple occurrences and called it an egregious act -- that's a big word isn't it?"
Harrison was penalized 15 yards Sunday for a hit to Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in which the officials ruled he had led with his helmet.
Shaun Suisham became the only Steelers kicker since at least the 1970 NFL merger to go 4 for 4 on field-goal tries from 40 yards or more. However, it was the second time Suisham has done it. He was 5 for 5 in 2007 for the Washington Redskins against the New York Giants, making kicks from 46, 40, 40, 46 and 22.
Jeff Reed has gone 4 for 4 five times but always had some under 40. In fact, in the past four times in which he went 4 for 4 -- including the second game this season at Tennessee -- not a kick came from 40 yards or more.
Reed, though, did something few other kickers in the NFL ever did and it came in his second game with the Steelers. Reed went 6 for 6 at Jacksonville, tying for the third-most kicks in a game in NFL history. Two came beyond 40, including the winner from 50.