Dom’s Saturday History Special, Week 1: Steelers vs. Ravens

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September 19, 2004

“N.F.L. History Changed In One Play”

Ravens 30 – Steelers 13

So what is a relatively unexciting game that saw the Steelers getting spanked by their biggest rivals doing on this list?  Well, I’m sure that most of you die-hards know the historical significance of this game, because N.F.L. history and the history/fortunes of the Pittsburgh Steelers were changed on one play in the 3rd Quarter.  More on that later, but for now let me break down what happened during this unexciting but momentous game.

A dismal 1st Half saw the Steelers unable to move the ball and score significant points against a Baltimore Offense that dominated the T.O.P. all day and saw Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor run for a combined 138 yards.  At the Half the Steelers were down 13-0 and looked to be headed to 1-1 entering Week 3.  Then in the 3rd Quarter the most silver-lining of a situation happened: Ravens CB Gary Baxter hit Tommy Maddox and made him fumble giving Baltimore cake field position which ultimately led to a 1 yard Jamal Lewis TD run.  Maddox injured his elbow on the play and wouldn’t be allowed to throw the football for at least six weeks.  However, like Brady for Bledsoe, and Gehrig for Pipp, off the bench strode the Steelers’ 2004 1st Round Draft Pick Ben Roethlisberger to finish the game.  And the Miami (OH) kid hasn’t lost the job since.  To be honest, Ben looked both good and bad finishing the game.  Ben threw two TD’s in a 12-20 176 yard performance.  His first career one was to Antwaan Randle El and the other to Hines Ward.  But like the rookie he was, he also threw two INT’s, and one was returned for a TD by U of A’s own Chris McAlister.

I just remember having this odd optimism about Big Ben though.  As a self-proclaimed draftnik I had considered him to be the best QB to fit what the Steelers wanted to do that came out of the 2004 Draft.  I figured that the injury to Maddox would be a blessing in disguise and it might be worth it to the franchise to see what the kid could do alongside a great running game and a stout Defense. Yet to many (including future H.O.F. Alan Faneca who said to the effect that he didn’t want his team’s fortunes riding on a rookie QB’s right arm) the season looked lost at that point.  Cowher was going to have to play Roethlisberger before he was intended to, and even considered bringing back the goat of Ray Finkle-esque proportions named Neil O’Donnell to keep the team steady in Maddox’s absence.  I think that was the part that set me off the most.  The fact that Cowher and the F.O. would consider bringing O’Donnell back to me was like a punch in the gut to all Steelers fans.  They couldn’t think of any other QB to start?  They had Chuckie Batch on the bench that season and as I recall he has won some games in years past!  Anyways, back to the article before I have an aneurysm.

Yet Big Ben Roethlisberger proved he wasn’t fazed by how high the stakes were.  In a dream-like season he led the team to 15 consecutive victories including back to back defeats of undefeated teams and Super Bowl XXXIX participants New England and Philadelphia.  2 Super Bowl Titles later the Steelers have one of the best QB’s in the game while the Ravens are trying to win with Borat Sagdiyev’s non-mustachioed body double that can’t seem to get the job done against a Big Ben led Steeler-squad.  Who knows what would have happened had Maddox stayed healthy and Ben had to sit?  I think the Steelers would have been a Wild Card that season but nothing more.  Ben provided the spark that was the basis for their almost improbable run to the Super Bowl and changed the fortunes of the close-yet-so-far nature of the Cowher years.