Nothing brings out the best in the Baltimore Ravens like a game vs. their archrival at M&T Bank Stadium. A Ravens-Steelers game has all the hard-hitting and intensity that football purists love. Every matchup between the two is magnified.
The 2006 version of the Ravens and Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium was no different. This game would be remembered by Ravens fans as a contest utterly dominated by Baltimore from start to finish. The Ravens ambushed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, sacking him a franchise-high nine times and delivering big hit after big hit.
Pittsburgh was coming off a 2005 Super Bowl-winning campaign for the first time under Head Coach Bill Cowher. Roethlisberger had proven he could make big plays in clutch situations, seemingly growing more comfortable with every game he played. Gone was Steeler staple Jerome Bettis, but Pittsburgh still had players that drew the ire of Ravens fans – particularly Hines Ward. Their defense was still an imposing force, led by Troy Polamalu. Even though Pittsburgh entered the game at 4-6, they were not to be taken lightly.
The Ravens were in the midst of a special season in 2006. Their 13-3 mark still stands as the best in franchise history. Led by the league's No. 1 defense, Baltimore imposed their will early and often on opponents. The unit totaled a franchise-record 60 sacks on the year. Ray Lewis remained a constant in the middle of the defense, and he was flanked by sack artists Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce and ball-hawking safety Ed Reed and run-stuffing defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The offense was under a little bit of a renaissance, as the team had acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Steve McNair in the offseason.
The records may not have reflected it (Ravens 8-2, Steelers 4-6), but make no mistake this game was as intense as ever. The crowd at M&T Bank was ready and on their feet, and the home team proved that this season would be different. The offense drove the ball down the field on their first possession and converted a touchdown on a McNair throw to tight end Todd Heap. That would be all the points Baltimore's defense needed. They permitted just 172 total yards (21 rushing) and zero points on the afternoon. The contest was all Ravens, as they won the first round of their season series, 27-0.
Stat of the game
A franchise-record (tied) nine sacks by Baltimore's defense. In one of their most dominating performances of the season – and maybe of recent memory – the Ravens were in Roethlisberger's face almost every time he dropped back. In addition to the nine sacks, he was hit nine others. It was an ambush from the start.
Player of the game
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs posted a team-high six tackles, two sacks (-13 yards) and hit Roethlisberger twice more.
Play of the game
The most memorable play from the contest, not surprisingly, came on a sack of Roethlisberger. He dropped back to pass looking left and linebacker Bart Scott came off the right edge untouched. Scott cleanly leveled Roethlisberger, taking him to the turf and drawing a rise out of the crowd. Roethlisberger had to be attended to by medical staff and was forced to miss a play. Roethlisberger would return, but his effectiveness was limited. Roethlisberger said of the hit after the game, "That's probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life. I just kind of remember my head hitting the ground. I couldn't really breathe very well." Suggs added, "I was 30 yards downfield, and I heard it."
Quote of the week
Suggs on the win: "We just had to keep our foot on their throat as long as we could. You've got a rivalry game and they don't score. You're not only sending a message for the next time you play them; you're sending a message to the next team you play."
What it meant Pittsburgh dropped to 4-7 on the season, and they never recovered. The Steelers would not get a chance to defend their Super Bowl title in the playoffs, finishing 8-8 and missing the postseason. The win improved Baltimore's best start in franchise history to 9-2, widening their division lead. The Ravens would finish the regular season at 13-3, winning the AFC North and securing a first-round bye. Unfortunately, Baltimore would meet Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round. The Ravens run to another Super Bowl fell short in that game, falling to Indy, 15-6.