- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Ravens players might wake up this morning with black and gold bruises instead of black and blue.
Because, in what is becoming an annual event, the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town and slapped the Ravens all over the place. So much for first place.
With the AFC North lead at stake, the Steelers served notice yesterday that the division is theirs until somebody proves otherwise. Quarterback Tommy Maddox shredded Baltimore's secondary by completing 18 of 24 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers defeated the Ravens 31-18 before 69,638 at Ravens Stadium.
This was the third straight convincing victory by the Steelers (4-3) over the Ravens (3-4), dating back to last season. Under coach Bill Cowher, the Steelers are 6-1 in Baltimore, with their only loss coming in 1996 the Ravens' first season at Memorial Stadium.
With this loss and Cleveland's 24-21 victory over the New York Jets, the Ravens are third in the division, a half-game behind the Browns (4-4).
"You saw what championship caliber football looked like in the first half," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Our guys got schooled in the first half, they found out how far they have to go. I'm not going to spend much time on the first half of that game because all I'm going to see is 11 guys kick the [expletive] out of 11 other guys. It's just one-on-one, you kicked his butt, you kicked his butt and you kicked his butt."
Billick's profanity-laced tirade should have started with his secondary. Maddox, who was MVP of the defunct XFL two years ago, picked apart the Ravens' defensive backs. Maddox completed his first 11 passes as the Steelers rolled to a 28-3 halftime lead.
In the first half, Maddox completed 14 of 19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Seven went to wide receiver Hines Ward for 88 yards (12.6 average). However, it was Steelers wideout Plaxico Burress who found the end zone.
The 6-foot-5 Burress made a spectacular 20-yard diving catch in the end zone against cornerback Chris McAlister to gave the Steelers a 14-0 first-quarter lead with 1:08 left.
On the first play of the second quarter, Burress caught a 9-yard drag over the middle that pushed the Steelers lead to 21-0. In the first half, he snagged five passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was one of those games where I was seeing the field really well and the guys were running great routes and catching balls," Maddox said. "It was a lot of fun, and that starts with the offensive line. They did a great job of protection."
But Ravens second-year cornerback Gary Baxter claimed the Steelers' receivers really didn't hurt Baltimore.
"When you talk about Plaxico and Hines Ward, they're good receivers but they didn't do anything that just really killed us," Baxter said. "They came out strong and were on a roll, but I wouldn't say that this secondary or this team, period, was embarrassed. They caught us in mistakes. We'll see these guys again, and this is definitely a learning curve. We'll know what to expect when we play them again."
The Ravens were without three key performers, but they probably would not have made a difference. Five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis was inactive for the third straight game because of a partially separated left shoulder. Defensive end Michael McCrary, a pass-rushing specialist, sat out with a bad knee and quarterback Chris Redman was sidelined with a stiff back.
With Redman hurt, veteran Jeff Blake started his first game in two years. He completed 29 of 50 passes for 298 yards with one touchdown but also threw three costly interceptions.
Blake had a career-high six rushes and scored the 12th touchdown of his career on a fourth-quarter sneak that made it 31-18 with 11 minutes left. Blake hit backup tight end John Jones for an 18-yard, third-quarter TD that cut the Steelers' lead to 28-11 after a two-point conversion pass to tight end Todd Heap.

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