BALTIMORE - A new season gave the Steelers a chance to eliminate the bad taste from February's Super Bowl XLV loss.
Instead, the Steelers' 2011 opening-day performance looked much like that Super Bowl loss with multiple turnovers and a shaky defensive effort, but it was worse.
The AFC North Division rival Baltimore Ravens dominated the Steelers in every facet of the game in rolling to a 35-7 thrashing at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. It was the Steelers' worst loss ever to the Ravens and the sixth worst in their history on opening day.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs sacks Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, causing a fumble during first-half action Sunday afternoon.
"The way they beat us is embarrassing,'' Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "They just came out and executed. They out-played us, and they really handed it to us. Since I have been here [since 2001], nobody has beaten us like that on both sides of the ball for the entire game.''
Imagine a team playing a horrible game, and then times that by seven - as in seven turnovers by the Steelers offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, running back Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on a key play, just like in the Super Bowl, and running back Mewelde Moore added the fourth lost fumble.
"Turning the ball over like that, it's never happened,'' Steelers receiver Mike Wallace said. "I don't ever remember watching [the Steelers] on TV and play like that. So, we definitely had a bad day out there today.''
The turnovers weren't the only problem, either. The Steelers defense allowed Ravens running back Ray Rice to rush for 107 yards, catch four passes for 42 yards and score twice, and quarterback Joe Flacco to complete 17-of-29 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens racked up 385 total yards.
"We had a rough day out there on defense,'' Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "We couldn't stop the run. We couldn't stop the pass. [The Ravens] did pretty much everything they wanted and scored a bunch of points. It was just a bad day all around.''
The bad day began much like last year's AFC playoff game against the Ravens at Heinz Field. Just like in that game, the Ravens jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Steelers rallied to win last year, 31-24, and received the ball to open the second half on Sunday. But things went downhill quickly for the Steelers.
On the first offensive play of the second half, Mendenhall was stopped in the backfield by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Ngata at the Steelers' 18-yard line.
On the next play, Flacco connected with tight end Ed Dickson, who beat Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, in the end zone. On the extra-point attempt, holder Sam Koch ran a fake and scored two points to give the Ravens a 29-7 lead.
Ngata then tipped Roethlisberger's pass on the Steelers' next offensive play, and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis intercepted it. Later in the quarter, the Steelers had a chance to score, but Roethlisberger was picked off by Ed Reed at the Baltimore 1-yard line.
"With tipped balls at the line of scrimmage, fumbles and interceptions, it was just one of those days,'' Roethlisberger said. "But this was good for us. We just have to watch the film and get those mistakes corrected.''
The Ravens received a Billy Cundiff field goal after Reed's interception and later in the fourth quarter added another Cundiff field goal after Roethlisberger fumbled on a sack by linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Twice the Steelers marched into Baltimore territory in the fourth quarter, but they lost the ball on Reed's second interception at the 5-yard line and Moore's fumble that was recovered by Pernell McPhee.
"I think that once we got that [Mendenhall fumble] and Ed Dickson got the touchdown, it just kept on rolling from there,'' Ngata said. "I think we kind of gave them a knockout hit there, and they knew that they would have to do a lot of catch-up. Our offense was able to keep running the ball and driving on them, and that kept them on the field. It was a good thing to see.''
The Ravens also saw good things in the first half when they scored on a Flacco-to-Anquan Boldin 27-yard pass just 1 minute, 32 seconds into the game. A Suggs forced fumble of Roethlisberger that was recovered by Ngata set up a Rice 1-yard plunge near the end of the first quarter to make it 14-0.
The Steelers' only scoring of the game came on a third-and-goal 11-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders at the start of the second quarter. But the Ravens drove 84 yards before halftime to go up 21-7 on an 11-yard pass from Flacco to Rice.
"We got handled in all three phases today,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We accept responsibility for the plays that we made and didn't make.''
The only bright spots for the Steelers were Wallace's 107 yards receiving, punter Daniel Sepulveda's 52.8 average on four punts and linebacker Lawrence Timmons' 12 tackles. The Steelers will host the Seattle Seahawks at 1 p.m. next Sunday .
"We got to pick it up,'' Wallace said. "We just have to protect the ball, do a better job of catching the ball, do a better job of blocking. It was everybody. It wasn't just one position.''