Check out the No. 22 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.
The first decade of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry wasn’t what it is today.
Yes, there had been some bright spots for Baltimore over the years, but Pittsburgh had won 14 of the first 21 overall meetings, swept the season series three times, and won the only playoff meeting in the 2001 postseason. The intensity was there, but the results largely hadn’t been for the Ravens, who had missed the playoffs in back-to-back years while the Steelers had just won their fifth Super Bowl title.
The 2006 season was different, however, as the Ravens exploded to a franchise-best 8-2 start behind the top defense in the NFL while Pittsburgh was 4-6 and struggling to hang in the playoff race at Thanksgiving. A Week 12 meeting at M&T Bank Stadium would either cement Baltimore’s AFC North lead and all but bury the Steelers’ postseason chances or give Pittsburgh new life for the final month of the regular season.
After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, the Ravens jumped to a 7-0 lead as quarterback Steve McNair found a wide-open Todd Heap for a 20-yard touchdown. With the Steelers unable to move the ball past their own 45-yard line on their first four drives, Baltimore pushed its lead to 14-0 on a Jamal Lewis 1-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.
To that point in the game, Rex Ryan’s blitz-happy defense had smothered Pittsburgh, but it was about to get worse for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had already been sacked twice. On a second-and-8 from the Pittsburgh 14 with under four minutes remaining in the second quarter, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass as Ravens linebacker Bart Scott blitzed off the right edge completely untouched.
Despite the deafening noise generated by nearly 71,000 fans, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said he could hear the crushing blow while in pass coverage downfield. To his credit, Roethlisberger would return to the game on the next series after being helped from the field, but it wouldn’t matter as the Ravens added another field goal to take a commanding 17-0 lead before halftime.
“That’s probably the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “I just kind of remember my head hitting the ground. I couldn’t really breathe very well.”
The defensive party continued in the second half as Baltimore sacked Roethlisberger six more times and linebacker Adalius Thomas returned a fumble 57 yards for a touchdown in a 27-0 blowout win that was the Ravens’ most dominant performance against the Steelers to date. It was also their second shutout of the season as Pittsburgh crossed midfield only three times, managed a measly 172 yards, committed three turnovers, rushed 11 times for 21 yards, went 1-for-12 on third down, and averaged only 2.8 yards per play.
After a game Pittsburgh had desperately wanted to save its season, head coach Bill Cowher lamented “a pitiful performance” as Baltimore basked in a convincing victory. The Steelers would manage to hang around in the wild-card race by winning their next three games before the Ravens came to Heinz Field on Christmas Eve and flattened their postseason hopes once and for all with a 31-7 win nearly as dominant as the first encounter.
No season series in the history of Ravens-Steelers has been as one-sided with Scott’s monstrous hit becoming one of the great moments in the rivalry from Baltimore’s perspective. Starting with their first sweep of the Steelers that season, the Ravens have gone 17-14 against Pittsburgh as the rivalry has remained one of the NFL’s best for the better part of two decades.
Many other Ravens-Steelers games have been more competitive and meaningful — and there would be other big hits and convincing victories to come — but the sight of Scott knocking the 240-pound Roethlisberger right off his feet was unforgettable.
“It’s a dream shot,” Scott said. “You dream as a child of hitting the quarterback like that.”