OWINGS MILLS – Haunting the Baltimore Ravens like a vengeful ghost, Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback they haven’t been able to vanquish.
He escapes the Ravens’ grasp with nimble feet that defy his bulky frame.
He shrugs off powerful tacklers with a shrug of his shoulders and a twist of his torso.
He buys himself that precious extra second of time before launching a spiral downfield with authority and accuracy.
He plays through gruesome injuries, including a bloody, broken nose suffered during the last meeting when he accidentally got smacked in the face by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata
Most of all, Roethlisberger emerges victorious when he squares off with the Ravens. He’s 8-2 for his career as a starter against the Ravens heading into Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game, including six consecutive wins.
"Yeah, it bothers me a lot," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday night. "We want to win those games. Obviously, he’s a really good quarterback. It seems like we see great quarterbacks a lot. We’ve beaten our fair share, but we haven’t beaten him. So, it’s our turn."
During the past four seasons, the Ravens have only beaten the Steelers three times.
Each time that happened, Roethlisberger wasn’t on the field.
He was serving the final game of his suspension for violating the personal conduct policy earlier this season when the Ravens won in Pittsburgh.
Last year, Roethlisberger was sidelined for a concussion in the Ravens’ win.
Three years ago, the Steelers rested Roethlisberger and started Charlie Batch during loss to Baltimore because they had already clinched a playoff berth.
"I don’t think there’s any magic recipe other than I guess I’m lucky," Roethlisberger said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "That’s all there is."
Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson laughed when informed of Roethlisberger’s batch of humble pie.
Traditionally, the Ravens have trouble with Roethlisberger because of his elusiveness and his uncanny ability to improvise.
"We’re a pressure team, and when we get to him, it’s great, but what’s hurt us is when we pressure him and flush him out of the pocket but don’t get him on the ground," Johnson said. "That’s when he’s really cost us. When he gets out is when he’s killed us."
With his trademark toughness, Roethlisberger didn’t miss a single snap during his latest conquest of the Ravens despite a nose injury that required surgery to repair the damage following the 13-10 win Dec. 5 in Baltimore.
The 6-foot-5, 241-pounder overcame a sore right foot and his broken nose, engineering the game-winning touchdown with his nine-yard toss to fullback Isaac Redman in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We’re going to get after him like we always do," Harbaugh said. "That’s the key to stopping him: You’ve got to get him down. I was glad we broke his nose, and I was very impressed he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose."
Roethlisberger understood that it wasn’t an intentional blow from Ngata.
And he wasn’t offended by Harbaugh’s remarks, which were delivered tongue in cheek.
They share an alma mater: Miami of Ohio.
"Coach Harbaugh and I have a pretty good relationship," Roethlisberger said. "I always talk to him before the game, just kind of a hello. He’s a Miami guy, so I don’t think he really meant anything malicious by it."
Roethlisberger did mistakenly blame nose guard Kelly Gregg for the hit.
"It wasn’t like I was mad," Roethlisberger said. "No way was it on purpose. So, I didn’t feel any kind of way about it. I have to apologize to Kelly Gregg. I’ll have to apologize when I see him on the field. I was giving him a hard time."
Roethlisberger stuffed cotton balls in his nose after getting hit by Ngata and went back in the game.
It was the kind of gritty performance that only did more to build his reputation as a Ravens killer.
He completed 20 of 33 passes for 246 yards.
He embraces the rivalry.
"As a competitor, you love it," Roethlisberger said. "But, heck no, I hate playing the Ravens because they’re so good.
"On defense, every single person and every scheme, everything they do, it challenges you. As a competitor, you like that challenge. But they’re good."
And so is Roethlisberger.
In 12 games this season, the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has passed for 3,200 yards, 17 touchdowns and only been intercepted five times for a 97.0 passer rating.
In seven NFL seasons, Roethlisberger has passed for 22,502 yards, 144 touchdowns and 86 interceptions on 63.1 percent accuracy for a 92.5 rating.
"I think he is definitely progressing as a quarterback," Harbaugh said. "He’s already one of the elite quarterbacks," Harbaugh said.
Although the Ravens are determined to do everything within their power to neutralize Roethlisberger as a threat, they intend to keep their zeal within the rules.
"I am not going to say I wish him success or anything, or to have a good game or nothing like that," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "But we don’t want to see anyone get hurt."
It’s rare, though, that Roethlisberger doesn’t get the final word against the Ravens.
He hasn’t lost to them in four years and he has no intention of doing so Saturday with a chance to advance to the AFC title game awaiting the winner.
"I don’t like losing," Roethlisberger said. "I remember all my losses. Anytime these two teams play, the winner walks off the field feeling pretty good about themselves."