PITTSBURGH (AP) — Hall of Famers galore lined the Steelers’ sideline, with Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Franco Harris out front. No wonder the Baltimore Ravens probably thought they were playing all of them and the current day Steelers, too.
Ben Roethlisberger tied the Steelers’ single-game record with five touchdown passes in the first half as Bradshaw stood nearby cheering him on, and Pittsburgh put on a Steel Curtain-like defensive show for its returning stars by forcing four turnovers before halftime in a 38-7 victory over Baltimore on Monday night.
The Ravens (4-4) had a chance to tie for the AFC North lead by beating the Steelers (6-2) for a fourth straight time dating to 2005.
In reality, they had no chance at all. Not with all the big names gathered to celebrate the Steelers’ 75th anniversary, whooping it up and pounding each others’ backs with every big hit and turnover.
The Steelers forced three fumbles in the first quarter alone, with James Harrison hitting All-Pro safety Ed Reed so hard on a punt return ball flew nearly 15 feet before Pittsburgh recovered. Four plays later, Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes for 15 yards on the first of their two opening-half touchdown pass plays and a 14-0 Steelers lead. Holmes had 110 yards on four receptions.
Right about then, it was becoming obvious this wouldn’t be a repeat of Baltimore’s two routs of the Steelers by scores of 31-7 and 27-0 a season ago.
Harrison, a one-time non-drafted free agent who became a starter after former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter was released during the offseason, seemed to torment Ravens quarterback Steve McNair on nearly every down. Harrison had two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and interception and 2 1/2 sacks before halftime in a Jack Lambert-like performance.
Former coach Bill Cowher got the crowd going by making a previously unannounced on-field appearance shortly before the opening kickoff as a steady rain fell, and the Steelers lived up to coach Mike Tomlin’s pregame prediction they would feed off the noise and enthusiasm.