- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

PITTSBURGH Send out a search party for the Baltimore Ravens. The Super Bowl champs didn't show up yesterday to defend their title.
The Pittsburgh Steelers knocked the Ravens all over western Pennsylvania 27-10 in an AFC divisional playoff game before a record crowd of 63,976 at Heinz Field.
A little more than a month ago, the AFC Central champions manhandled the Ravens 26-21 in Baltimore on national television. For an encore, the Steelers dominated the Ravens again in front of a national audience, but this time it was for the right to face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Purple reign is over, mostly because the Steelers dominated the Ravens defensively. Baltimore rushed for a team-record low 22 yards and was limited to 150 total yards. The Ravens went 1-for-12 on third-down conversions, and the Steelers dominated possession, holdng the ball for 40:45.
Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac tossed three interceptions and completed 18 of 37 passes for 153 yards a horrid 26.1 passing rating. The Ravens ventured into the cradle of quarterbacks basically unarmed.
"When you have deficiencies and you get to the playoffs, [the deficiencies] will get exploited," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Everybody saw what we need to improve and where we need to improve. To be honest, that was worse than what happened to us in Baltimore. We dominated last week in Miami [20-3] and showed that their run defense needed to get shored up. We come here and get dominated. It lets us know offensively that we don't have the personnel that we need right now in all areas to get the job done."
Grbac, whom the Ravens signed in March as a free agent to a five-year, $30 million deal, finished his first season in Baltimore with more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (16). However, Grbac's contract has a one-year escape clause that allows the Ravens the option of honoring only the first year at $5 million and then releasing the turnover-prone quarterback. Baltimore was 0-6 in games in which Grbac tossed two or more interceptions.
"In my eyes [the season was a failure]," Grbac said. "I hope I'm back because we have a good football team and a good offense. Like I said from the beginning when I got here, my only mindset is to win a championship. And if you come up short, you're a failure."
When asked if he thought he would be back, Grbac said, "We'll see."
The Ravens finished the season at 11-7 and got knocked out of this game early. On the third play of the game, Grbac was intercepted by Steelers cornerback Chad Scott on an underthrown ball to wide receiver Travis Taylor. Scott's interception set up a 21-yard field goal by Kris Brown that gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
The Steelers extended their lead to 10-0 on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by backup tailback Amos Zereoue with 3:49 left in the quarter. Zereoue, who finished with 63 yards on 24 carries, started in place of Jerome Bettis. Bettis, who has been plagued by a groin injury, received a pregame shot in the injured area, experienced numbness and did not play.
Trailing 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Ravens had a golden opportunity to put points on the scoreboard, but Grbac's second interception of the quarter killed that idea. With second-and-goal at the 11-yard line, Grbac tried to force a pass to Sharpe in the end zone. Grbac was hit by Steelers linebacker Joey Porter just as he released the ball, and Steelers free safety Brent Alexander stepped in front of Sharpe for the interception.
The Steelers didn't let up until they enjoyed a comfortable 20-3 halftime lead. Zereoue's second 1-yard touchdown run of the game gave the Steelers a 17-0 lead 5:43 before halftime. With the Ravens unable to run the ball against the league's best run defense, the game was essentially over.
"I didn't think they would be able to run the football against us," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "They can talk about the last few weeks, but we're not Miami, we're not Minnesota. We knew that."
It took a spectacular 88-yard punt return by Jermaine Lewis for the Ravens to score their only touchdown of the game. With 7:18 left in the third quarter, the longest punt return in NFL playoff history cut the deficit to 20-10.
The Steelers put the Ravens out of their misery early in the fourth quarter when Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart found wide receiver Plaxico Burress on a 32-yard sideline route. Burress found a seam in the Ravens' zone to make it 27-10.

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