Secondary Gets Revenge Against Steelers


The last time the Ravens went into Heinz Field, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came away with a record-setting performance. He tossed six touchdowns in the Week 9 rout, and that game was fresh on the minds of Baltimore's defensive backs heading into the wild-card matchup.

Baltimore's re-vamped secondary ended up enacting a little revenge.

The group had a much-improved performance in the 30-17 victory Saturday night, and they limited the big plays from Roethlisberger and his potent passing attack.

"Our defensive backs played tremendously well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

In many ways, the secondary is a whole new group this time around. The six-touchdown outing in the last matchup spurned big changes for the Ravens, as the team cut cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks the day after the loss. Their replacements, Danny Gorrer and Asa Jackson, have both suffered season-ending injuries since then.

Now the Ravens have former practice squad player Rashaan Melvin in the starting lineup at corner, along with veteran Lardarius Webb who is playing his best football of the season.

"It's a different group of guys out there on the field," Melvin said. "We believe in each other. We just took it in stride and understand that we're a different group of guys. We've improved through the last few weeks."

Roethlisberger finished the game 31-of-45 passing for 343 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who led the NFL in receiving this year, had nine catches for 114 yards but no touchdowns.

Brown got his chances, but the Ravens kept him from picking up big chunks of yardage for most of the game. With the exception of his 44-yard gain down the sideline, Brown averaged just 9.1 yards per reception.

"Our safeties in the back end kept things in front and on top with the exception of one big play, which is a tremendous catch by Antonio Brown," Harbaugh said. "I thought those guys did a great job."

The development of the secondary in recent weeks has propelled the Ravens to get in position for a postseason run. The group was the Achilles heel of the defense for much of the season because of injuries – Baltimore has five cornerbacks on injured reserve – but they have settled on a lineup that is playing solid football.

In addition to Webb's progress and Melvin's emergence, the Ravens have also settled on their safety rotation.

Will Hill, Jeremy Miles and Darian Stewart are taking the bulk of the reps at safety, and they have shown some playmaking ability recently. Stewart played his best game of the season Saturday, as he forced an incompletion on a touchdown pass to Brown, and he also came away with a game-sealing interception.

"As a football player and as an athlete, you understand how big games are. You come in and they expect a lot from the guys that are on the field with them," Melvin said. "I'm a competitive person, a competitive athlete, and everything I do I just do it full throttle. There's no pressure when I step on the field because I believe in my abilities."

The secondary doesn't have time to rest on the laurels of their success now, as they know a matchup with the Patriots and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady is looming next Saturday.

"It's going to be fun. It's going to be a great time," Melvin said. "It's playoffs and it's an exciting time. And we'll be ready."

Check out all the best photos from the AFC Wild Card match-up between the Ravens and Steelers at Heinz Field.

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