PITTSBURGH Hall of Famers galore lined the Steelers' sideline, with Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Franco Harris out front. No wonder the Baltimore Ravens probably thought they were playing all of them and the current day Steelers, too.
Ben Roethlisberger tied the Steelers' single-game record with five touchdown passes in the first half as Bradshaw stood nearby cheering him on, and Pittsburgh put on a Steel Curtain-like defensive show for its returning stars by forcing four turnovers before halftime in a 38-7 victory over Baltimore on Monday night.
The Ravens (4-4) had a chance to tie for the AFC North lead by beating the Steelers (6-2) for a fourth straight time dating to 2005. In reality, they had no chance at all. Not with all the big names gathered to celebrate the Steelers' 75th anniversary, whooping it up and pounding each others' backs with every big hit and turnover.
The Steelers forced three fumbles in the first quarter alone, with James Harrison hitting All-Pro safety Ed Reed so hard on a punt return the ball flew nearly 15 feet before Pittsburgh recovered. Four plays later, Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes for 15 yards on the first of their two opening-half touchdown pass plays and a 14-0 Steelers lead. Holmes had 110 yards on four receptions.
Right about then, it was becoming obvious this wouldn't be a repeat of Baltimore's two routs of the Steelers by scores of 31-7 and 27-0 a season ago.
Harrison, a one-time non-drafted free agent who became a starter after former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter was released during the offseason, seemed to torment Ravens quarterback Steve McNair on nearly every down. Harrison had two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and interception and 2 1/2 sacks before halftime. Lambert, coincidentally, was one of the few members of the Steelers' 75th anniversary all-time team who didn't attend.
Former coach Bill Cowher got the crowd going by making a previously unannounced on-field appearance shortly before the opening kickoff as a steady rain fell, and the Steelers lived up to coach Mike Tomlin's pregame prediction they would feed off the noise and enthusiasm.
Harrison's hard hit caused Steve McNair to fumble in a third-down play on Baltimore's first possession and Harrison recovered himself at the 20. Roethlisberger responded by stepping out of the Ravens' pass rush to hit tight end Heath Miller on a 17-yard scoring pass midway through the first quarter.
A familiar pattern then settled in: The Ravens would turn the ball over, and the Steelers would score in a hurry as Roethlisberger also threw two TD passes to backup Nate Washington.
Harrison and Anthony Smith forced another fumble apiece, and Harrison stepped in front of a McNair pass for an interception. McNair was 13-of-22 for 63 yards before being pulled in the fourth quarter, about the time the early departing fans from the crowd of 63,457 had already created a huge traffic jam around Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger, still in the game with the Steelers holding a 28-point lead, was pushed to the turf by Terrell Suggs on a 45-yard completion to Holmes in the third quarter, but returned early in the fourth quarter after having his right hip examined. He finished 13-of-16 for 209 yards and his five TD throws gave him a career-record 20 in half a season, two more than his previous single-season high of 18.