The Ravens came into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh hobbled and short-handed.
And Ben Roethlisberger made them pay.
The Ravens had their worst defensive showing of the season in the 43-23 defeat, as the veteran Steelers quarterback picked apart a secondary that was playing without top cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Roethlisberger finished the game 25-of-37 passing for 340 yards and six touchdowns, tying a team record he set last week for touchdown passes in a game. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 12 touchdowns in the span of two weeks.
"You could have never sold me that during the week, even though he did it last week," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He had a hell of a day and that's a reflection of us all. You have to go out there and you have to stop him, regardless of the situation."
Roethlisberger took a while to heat up, but was virtually unstoppable once he got into a rhythm. The Ravens forced the Steelers to punt on their first four drives of the game, and then everything seemed to change.
The Steelers turned a pair of Baltimore turnovers into 14 points, and suddenly Roethlisberger was red hot.
"They got into their groove," cornerback Dominque Franks said. "We just didn't make plays."
Roethlisberger spread the wealth on his big day. He didn't go after one particular defender or force the ball to any of his targets.
Instead, he picked apart the short-handed secondary from multiple angles.
The Steelers had eight different targets catch a pass, and five of those players caught touchdowns. The only player to catch multiple touchdowns was rookie receiver Martavis Bryant, who had three catches for 44 yards and the two scores.
Pittsburgh's leading receiver was Antonio Brown, who racked up 11 catches for 144 yards and a score.
"In the back end we can't be letting balls get over our heads," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "We have to tackle better. We just have to get better."
The secondary was a concern coming into the weekend after Smith suffered a foot injury against Cincinnati last week. He was clearly the team's best player on the back-end of the defense and was garnering Pro Bowl talk for his performance in the first seven games.
With Smith out, the Ravens'* *only healthy cornerbacks were Webb, Franks and Chykie Brown. The Ravens also played three safeties for much of the game by having Matt Elam defend the slot and play near the line of scrimmage. Darian Stewart and Will Hill also played significant minutes on the back end of the defense, as Hill started his first game for the Ravens.
Regardless of who was playing, Roethlisberger had his way.
"He made some plays," Suggs said about the rival quarterback. "His receivers made some plays for him. He played a phenomenal game, so you can't take anything away from him. But we also did some uncharacteristic things and we gave him a lot of help."
The Ravens had chances to come up with stops or force turnovers, but they couldn't force the receivers or Roethlisberger into mistakes. That's been a storyline throughout the season, as the Ravens have just one interception by a member of the secondary this season.
Finding ways to force more turnovers is* *a focus heading into the next seven games, and the Ravens are ready to put Sunday's lopsided loss quickly behind them.
"They were just making their plays," Stewart said. "We just lost, man. We just have to find a way to make more plays. That's pretty much it."