Eager to atone for a season-opening 20-3 loss in Cleveland, the defending AFC North champions dominated the team they consider their biggest rival.
“Anytime you can bounce back from a game like we had last week and win like this, it’s huge,” Ravens receiver Kevin Johnson said. “We are going to get where we need to go.”
The destination is the Super Bowl, a trek that would have been more imposing if Baltimore (1-1) lost to Pittsburgh (1-1).
“They’re probably our biggest and only rival at this point. Always have been,” cornerback Chris McAlister said. “It’s good to walk away with a victory.”
Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox went 4-for-13 for 67 yards before being forced out in the third quarter with an elbow injury. He was replaced by first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger, who threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward.
But those scores came after the Steelers had fallen into a 20-0 hole, and the rookie’s second interception was returned 51 yards for a touchdown by McAlister with 2:56 remaining.
“I’d say I got my feet wet, but I got my whole leg wet,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s tough, you come out and your first game is against probably one of, if not the best, defense in the NFL.”
Roethlisberger went 12-for-20 for 176 yards. His favorite target was Ward, who finished with six catches for 151 yards.
“I’m not Tommy Maddox. Can’t be Tommy Maddox,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m just going to do the best that I can.”
Baltimore’s Kyle Boller was just 10-for-18 for 98 yards, but he did not commit a turnover and ran for 37 yards on five carries. He directed a 90-yard drive after the opening kickoff to give the Ravens a lead they would never surrender.
“They came out and set the tempo and we never responded,” Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said.
Baltimore went up 20-0 immediately after the play that forced Maddox from the game. Maddox fumbled after being hit by Gary Baxter and Terrell Suggs took the loose ball to the 1, setting up a TD run by Lewis with 11:59 left in the third quarter.
Cowher expects Maddox to be sidelined at least for another week.
“Ben’s our guy right now,” he said. “He’s got an opportunity to play next week. He’s going to make more throws and we’re going to make more plays.”
Playing in his second game since ending a three-year retirement, Baltimore defensive back Deion Sanders left late in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return. The injury apparently occurred when he was covering Plaxico Burress on the final play before the two-minute warning.
Sanders was a step behind Burress on the long pass, which fell incomplete.
Sanders participated in eight plays, seven of them as a nickel back. He returned a punt for 23 yards, but was penalized 15 yards for removing his helmet on the field during an impromptu celebration.
“It wasn’t me celebrating,” Sanders insisted. “To be honest with you, that head thing came down over my eyes the last 10 yards … my instinct was to get this thing off of my eyes.”
The Ravens also lost tight end Todd Heap to an ankle injury in the first half. After he twisted his right ankle, Heap was knocked over by Pittsburgh’s Joey Porter on a play in which Boller spiked the ball and did not return.
The Ravens got into the end zone for the first time this season with an 11-play opening drive that included just one pass. Lewis accounted for 36 yards rushing, including a 3-yard scoring run, Taylor ran for 36 yards and Boller picked up 17 yards after being flushed from the pocket on a second-and-19.
“To punch it in like that was huge,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Baltimore made it 10-0 early in the second quarter. Late in the half, Ravens rookie B.J. Sams returned a punt 36 yards to the Pittsburgh 22, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Matt Stover for a 13-0 halftime lead.