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Ravens Give the Steelers Blank Look

September 04, 2000|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers were convinced their offense could not possibly be as bad as it was last season.

They were wrong.

The Baltimore Ravens' pass-rushing defense did not let the Steelers cross midfield until the second half, harassed quarterback Kent Graham into numerous bad passes and gave the Raven offense time to grind out a 16-0 victory Sunday.

"We kind of played [old-style] Steelers ball," Raven Coach Brian Billick said. "To do that in their backyard . . . the toughest thing in sports must be shutting out a team on the road."

The shutout loss was the Steelers' first at home since it happened twice in 1989. It was their seventh consecutive loss in Three Rivers Stadium against AFC Central opponents. Pittsburgh hasn't won a division home game since Nov. 22, 1998, against Jacksonville.

Raven quarterback Tony Banks looked uncertain at times in a redesigned offense that now features short throws rather than deep passes. But he still found Qadry Ismail on a 54-yard touchdown pass play in the first quarter, Ismail's fourth scoring catch of 50-plus yards against Pittsburgh in two games.

Banks completed 18 of 32 passes for 199 yards in a turnover-free offense.

"Sixteen points is not going to beat many teams in this league," Raven tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "We just ran into a team that's having problems and they weren't very good."

Priest Holmes rushed for 119 yards for the Ravens. The Steelers played the second half without run-stuffing linebacker Levon Kirkland, who suffered a sprained ankle.

The Steelers had 30 rushing yards. Jerome Bettis gained only eight yards in nine carries.

"That was embarrassing," Bettis said. "We couldn't move the ball at all. It was rough going out there."

Graham, who lost starting jobs with the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, completed 17 of 38 passes for 199 yards. He did not get anything going until the fourth quarter when he drove the Steelers 86 yards to the Raven one with throws of 22 yards to rookie Plaxico Burress and 23 yards to Mark Bruener.

But Steeler Coach Bill Cowher, who unexpectedly benched Kordell Stewart last week after an ineffective exhibition season, suddenly put Stewart in on first and goal. Three plays lost a yard before Graham replaced Stewart on fourth down. His pass fell incomplete.

"It's not easy going in like that," Stewart said. "But that's the way it is being a backup."

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