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Ben Roethlisberger stands in the Ravens' way again

Baltimore is 0-5 against the Steelers' quarterback in the last three seasons, with a playoff matchup Saturday at Pittsburgh.

January 14, 2011|By Ken Murray
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fends off Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs in the first half of a regular-season game last month at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fends off Ravens linebacker… (Rafael Suanes / US Presswire )

Like a ghostly apparition from their past, Ben Roethlisberger haunts the Baltimore Ravens in their playoff dreams.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' seven-year veteran has been equal parts quarterback, magician and tormentor to the Ravens while winning his last six starts against them, often in extraordinary fashion.

Going into Saturday's divisional round playoff game in Pittsburgh, the Ravens lug these memories into Heinz Field:

There was the phantom touchdown throw to Santonio Holmes — who did not appear to break the plane of the goal line — that beat the Ravens, 13-9, at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium in December 2008 and won the AFC North title.

There was the Houdini-like escape and pass to Holmes a month later in Pittsburgh that ended in a 65-yard touchdown and a 23-14 victory in the AFC championship game.

Just a month ago in Baltimore, after some defensive wizardry by Troy Polamalu, Roethlisberger completed a third-down pass to Isaac Redman with 2:51 to play to rescue a 13-10 win and send the Ravens into the playoffs as a wild card for the third year in a row.

"I love this time of year," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "All eyes are on you. It's win or go home, obviously. I welcome that. I relish that. I want the ball in my hands when the game's on the line."

Roethlisberger has been unbeatable the last three years against the Ravens, winning all five matchups — by a total of 22 points — against Coach John Harbaugh. He sat out an overtime victory by the Ravens in 2009 because of a concussion.

"Yeah, it bothers me a lot," he said when asked about his 0-5 record against Roethlisberger. "I'd rather we won. We want to win those games. Obviously, he's a really good quarterback. We've had a history here, for whatever reason, in the last three years."

This week, the Ravens insisted Roethlisberger is not in their heads, despite his improbable run of theatrical finishes.

"I think we always go into the game feeling we're going to win, feeling very confident," said cornerback Chris Carr, who opted to sign with the Ravens rather than the Steelers in 2009. "And I don't think there's ever a feeling like, 'Oh, well, here we go again, he's going to beat us.'

"I think mentally, with the guys on our team, we really kind of don't let that persist and get where we can't respond and not have confidence."

The Ravens are focused on Roethlisberger's unique ability to escape the pass rush, extend the play and then capitalize against a scrambling defense.

"There's a lot of times when he's outside the pocket that he's far more dangerous than when he's inside the pocket," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "And that's not to say he's not good when he's in the pocket. But his ability to throw accurately on the run and on the fly and just create stuff is just uncanny."

Said nose tackle Kelly Gregg: "Some quarterbacks will go down when they get people around them, but not him. The play's never dead with him and that's something you've got to watch out for. It's tough to play against. You just got to get lots of helmets on him and get him down."

In 10 career starts against the Ravens, Roethlisberger is 8-2. In 11 games overall, he has thrown for 2,357 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has thrown for a touchdown in every game except one (a 27-0 loss in 2006 when he was sacked nine times). He does not have a 300-yard passing game against the Ravens, but he has thrown for more than 200 yards seven times. His passer rating has been more than 100 only once (125.1) and that came in his first start against Baltimore in 2004.

"I might never win the passing title or be the league MVP," Roethlisberger said. "But I'm OK with that. I just want to win championships. I've got a lot of fingers left for rings and I want to win a lot more championships.

"When I'm done and they look back on my career, I want them to be able to say he won the big games. That will mean more to me than anything."

He has certainly won his share against the Ravens.

"He's had some good luck," Gregg said of the Ravens' nemesis. "Maybe that luck's run out."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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