Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun
September 11, 2011
I didn't think the Ravens were capable of blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers, and vice-versa. They knew each other too well and were built too much a like.
But I'll never forget how the Ravens wrecked the Steelers, 35-7, in the season opener of 2011. It was interesting and exciting because the Ravens had worked for this moment during the entire off season.
When they left Heinz Field after the loss to Pittsburgh in the Divisional semi-finals nearly a year ago, the Ravens knew they had the better team but just didn't make enough big plays near the end of the game and turned the ball over too much. So during the offseason, the Ravens spent most of it trying to find ways to beat Pittsburgh.
The coaching staff took apart game film. They even had their defensive staff evaluate Pittsburgh's defense and did the same thing on offense, which usually doesn't happen in the NFL. The Ravens interviewed other coaches and spent a lot of time figuring out ways to attack Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. Plus, the Ravens revamped their running game and added new free agents.
When the Ravens opened the season against Pittsburgh, it was like unleashing eight to nine months of bottled up frustration. They forced a team-record seven turnovers. They smacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger around. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a great game and the Ravens play-action game was flawless as they found ways to isolate Pittsburgh's linebackers one-on-one with tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
But they best thing I saw that day was the way the Ravens took away Pittsburgh's desire to play against them. By the end of the game, Pittsburgh's offensive line wanted no part of the Ravens. They were a tired and beaten group. Roethlisberger was exhausted and Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall was still looking for the heart he left on the field after defensive tackle Haloti Ngata smashed him earlier in the game. Most Ravens fans left the game knowing that somehow the Steelers would regroup because they are one of the NFL's best franchises. But for one day, on the opening of the 2011 season, the Ravens had crushed their chief rival. It was no contest, a beating that had been in the works for nearly nine months.
-- Mike Preston