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Maddox Is Sharp in Rare Opening Victory

September 08, 2003|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — On a day filled with mismatches, the biggest of all might have been Tommy Maddox against a Raven defense supposedly among the NFL's best.

Maddox threw three touchdown passes, two to Hines Ward, and Pittsburgh's defense roughed up Baltimore rookie quarterback Kyle Boller in his NFL debut, a 34-15 Steeler victory that wasn't that close.

Maddox, making his first season-opening start 11 years after being Denver's first-round draft pick, was everything Boller wasn't: decisive, accurate and effective in picking on the defense's mistakes. Maddox went 21 for 29 for 260 yards and didn't have a pass intercepted, something that happened only once in his 11 starts last season.

The Steelers won their opener for the first time since 1999 and only the fifth time since Coach Bill Cowher was hired in 1992. They also won their fifth straight against Baltimore.

Pittsburgh was without Joey Porter, the All-Pro linebacker shot last weekend in Denver, but Baltimore was mostly without an offense. Boller had a predictable performance in his first game -- predictably bad.

He was intercepted by Kendrell Bell on Baltimore's first possession, setting up the second of Jeff Reed's field goals, and it didn't get much better from there. The former Cal star went 22 for 42 for 152 yards, with almost all the yardage coming after the outcome was decided.

"It was definitely a lot faster than the preseason. I could tell that right away," Boller said. "There were definitely some times I could have moved the chains if I hadn't made some mistakes."

That wasn't Maddox's problem. On Ward's second touchdown catch, a 28-yarder that made it 27-0, Maddox noticed right away that Ward shed his coverage. Maddox hit him in stride with no defender in sight.

"He made a great move at the line, but I thought I was missing something," Maddox said. "I didn't think he could get that wide open."

Plaxico Burress had six catches for 116 yards and Ward had nine for 91 yards.

Raven defensive star Ray Lewis, returning after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, said, "If Pittsburgh beat us, I can take it, but to play like this...."

Boller did throw his first NFL touchdown pass, a five-yarder to Travis Taylor late in the fourth quarter, after the Steelers' Verron Haynes fumbled at his two.

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