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costanza2k1
12-14-2008, 10:39 PM
Carucci: Steelers get physical, take division

Posted: News, Sidelines | NFL.com Staff

Vic Carucci reports from the Steelers-Ravens game. Check back later for his complete column.

BALTIMORE — This is the first time I’ve ever felt tempted to wear a helmet to an NFL stadium.

With so much buildup about how physical the game between the Steelers and Ravens would be and how hard the teams (and especially the defenses) would be hitting, I figured it might be better to be safe than sorry.

I especially felt that way after receiving the following e-mail response from a Ravens public relations staffer to my request for a press box credential: “It will not be for the meek.”

In 30 years of covering the NFL, that was a first for me.

It turned out that the game held true to the hype. With the hard-hitting defenses ruling the day (and keeping offensive production to a minimum), the Steelers won 13-9 by scoring the game’s only touchdown with 43 seconds left to clinch the AFC North. And even that score didn’t come easily, because officials first ruled that Santonio Holmes caught the ball just short of the goal line, but an official review showed that he had both feet inside the goal line, even though he landed with the ball outside the end zone.

As for the hits, the biggest of the day came on a fourth-quarter kickoff return, when Pittsburgh’s Patrick Bailey blasted Yamon Figurs head on.

There was a concern that some of the hits would be illegal, especially with Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs talking about a “bounty” being placed on Hines Ward for the crushing blocks he delivers that Ravens players consider cheap shots. Ward called himself the “the most hated man in Baltimore” before the game.

Sure enough, there were two personal fouls, but neither had anything to do with Ward. The first came on a punt return with 6:23 left in the first quarter. Mewelde Moore signaled for a fair catch and didn’t field the ball, yet he still delivered a block to Daren Stone. That resulted in a personal-foul call against Moore.

At the start of the fourth quarter, when Suggs forced Ben Roethlisberger to fumble on a sack, Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata also drew a personal foul after throwing Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon to the ground.

Something tells me that Colon and other Steelers players made a note of that one because there’s a chance these teams could meet again in the postseason.