- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The Pittsburgh Steelers pounded the Baltimore Ravens so badly last time these teams met that the Super Bowl champions are virtually speechless.

That's what happens when 476 yards of total offense are rammed down the throat of the league's second-best defense.

The Steelers' dominating 26-21 victory Dec.16 in Baltimore was more lopsided than the final score indicated. The Steelers are so confident after that win that the black and gold are dishing up bulletin board material by the bucketful and the Ravens are "Bill Cowhering" in a corner for Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field.

Steelers strong safety Lee Flowers dropped some nasty remarks on the Ravens this week that gave Baltimore an earful and eyeful. But the Ravens aren't responding for fear of getting fined by coach Brian Billick.

"I think those guys over there read too many of their own articles," Flowers said. "Sometimes you got to play. News clippings don't win football games, period. I don't care how much you talk about it and how much you put up bulletin board material, that's not going to win a football game. Players win football games. It's as simple as that.

"We don't care how much they talk. Actually, it's kind of comical. It's funny sometimes to see some of the stuff that comes out of Baltimore, because every time we play them, it's something different. You can't sit around and tell us how good you are. You have to show me how good you are."

The Ravens (11-6) took trash talk to a new level last time when Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe dubbed Steelers second-year wide receiver Plaxico Burress as "Plexiglas." Ray Lewis, the Ravens' five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, told Steelers star running back Jerome "the Bus" Bettis to tape up his injured groin and meet him on the field.

The Ravens couldn't back up their talk a month ago. So this time, the brash Ravens are keeping relatively quiet.

"Brian [Billick] has threatened to fine me, and [Ravens owner Art Modell] said I won't be his favorite son anymore if I talk trash so I'm going to let it slide this week," Sharpe said. "Brian kind of brought that to our attention that we might have spent too much emotion during the course of the week, getting up for the game, talking about the game, and not playing the game on Sunday. We're kind of taking a different approach this week."

After missing the past five games, Bettis, who has rushed for 1,072 yards and four touchdowns this season, will play Sunday.

Ravens outside linebacker Jamie Sharper got the ball rolling in Pro Player Stadium's visiting locker room after the Ravens manhandled the Miami Dolphins 20-3 in the AFC wild-card round. Sharper sounded off before Billick warned his team about trash talking.

"Everybody says they're the best team," Sharper said of the Steelers. "We'll see. If the Bus is smart, he won't play."

It didn't take Bettis long to rev up.

"I don't think he's qualified to make that assessment," Bettis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Well, if you look at the last couple of games, I don't know if he should suit up. He's been put on his back by some wide receivers on our team. So, I mean, he might want to be careful himself."

These teams split this season. The Ravens beat the Steelers 13-10 in Pittsburgh on Nov.4 the Steelers' only home loss of the season. The Steelers think an asterisk should be placed next to that game because kicker Kris Brown missed four makeable field goals.

Knowing the first result should have been different if it wasn't for Brown, especially after outgaining the Ravens 348 to 183 yards, has Flowers talking big. Sharpe, who by his own admission is the ultimate trash talker on the Ravens, thinks Steelers coach Bill Cowher should muzzle Flowers.

"I think Coach Cowher should get a handle on that because that's not like a team of his to be trash talking," Sharpe said. "Maybe that's just to try to keep them loose because they realize there is a lot at stake here. Thirteen and three, is 13-3. It doesn't guarantee you a pass to the Super Bowl; it doesn't guarantee you any more wins than a team that is 10-6 and got into the playoffs."

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