Steelers Hammer Ravens, 37-0
By Ken Denlinger
PITTSBURGH, Nov. 9 — Before the game, the Baltimore Ravens described flu-ridden quarterback Vinny Testaverde as "a little queasy." Testaverde and backup Eric Zeier then combined for six first-half turnovers and the Pittsburgh Steelers coasted to a 37-0 AFC Central victory tonight at Three Rivers Stadium.
Testaverde missed the final two practices of the week and twice was given nourishment intravenously Saturday. He also suffered bruised ribs after the first of his three first-quarter interceptions. Zeier came on early in the second quarter and threw an interception and lost two fumbles.
"I feel embarrassed for the way we played," said Testaverde, who refused to use his illness as an excuse. "No question, embarrassed is the right word."
In addition to the turnovers, the Ravens had seven penalties for 48 yards in the opening 30 minutes. Injured wideouts Michael Jackson (shoulder) and Jermaine Lewis (ankle) did not start but came in on the third possession and played until late in the fourth quarter.
"That was enough turnovers for a whole season," Jackson said.
The victory allowed the Steelers (7-3) to stay in a first-place tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the division. The Ravens (4-6) dropped behind the Tennessee Oilers and into next-to-last place.
After earlier losses, Coach Ted Marchibroda had said he doubted the team had hit "rock bottom." Asked if that had been achieved tonight, he said: "If it isn't, it's as close as we've ever been."
The first half was the reverse of what happened when the teams met about a month ago in Baltimore. It was the Steelers who raced to a huge lead this time, 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Last time, the Ravens could not hold a 21-0 lead at home — and the Steelers won. Tonight, the Steelers built on that early success and had a 30-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
Kordell Stewart passed for one touchdown, a 52-yarder to wide receiver Yancey Thigpen, and jumped a yard into the end zone for another. Norm Johnson had field goals of 52, 27 and 39 yards. Also, Jerome Bettis had 114 yards rushing midway through the fourth quarter.
"We wasted a fine defensive effort," Marchibroda said.
Indeed, had the Baltimore defense not played so well, the lead the Steelers took into halftime would have been much more than 20-0. Pittsburgh could convert just one of nine third-down plays and had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Johnson after a first down on the Baltimore 4.
The Ravens' misery began even before their first offensive snap, when right guard Jeff Blackshear was called for a false start. That set the tone, and Testaverde's third-down pass was tipped by a Steeler and then intercepted by linebacker Steve Conley at the Baltimore 25.
Stewart was short on a third-down pass, but the drive kept going when linebacker Peter Boulware was called for roughing the passer. That gave the Steelers first down on the Ravens 8 — and Bettis dived into the end zone from the 1 three plays later.
Testaverde drove the Ravens to the Pittsburgh 36 on the next possession, then threw into double coverage and reserve free safety Chris Oldham made a catch parallel to the ground for an interception at the Steelers 25. The Baltimore defense held — and Johnson made a 42-yard field goal attempt. The Steelers were penalized for holding, however, so Johnson backpedaled a bit and was long and true from 52 yards.
Testaverde's next interception was right to strong safety Carnell Lake at the Steelers 37. That was enough for Marchibroda — and Zeier trotted in with 14 minutes 8 seconds left in the second quarter.
On his second play, a low pass bounced off tight end Eric Green and into free safety Darren Perry's hands. Perry returned the ball 42 yards to the Baltimore 1, Stewart soon leaped in the end zone and the Steelers increased their lead to 17-0.
Zeier's next experiences included hitting the umpire on the side of the face on a short throw intended for running back Bam Morris and two lost fumbles. After the first, Johnson kicked his 27-yarder. After the second, the Ravens' defense held from its 47.
After taking some pain medication, Testaverde returned in the second half. But the Steelers raised their lead to 30-0 on Johnson's 39-yard field goal and the Stewart-to-Thigpen connection behind badly beaten cornerback Eugene Daniel.
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