20 For 20: 1 of 20
November 26, 2006 was a day that will forever be a shining light in Baltimore sports history.
Section 136, Row 4, Seat 1 was my vantage point for, what I believe to be, the turning point in the NFL’s biggest rivalry.
Up to that day, the Ravens were 7-14 against the Steelers. Just seven times was Baltimore able to score 20 or more points against Pittsburgh. The Ravens won a Super Bowl six seasons prior, but the Steelers had won the most recent Super Bowl.
Before then, it seemed like the Ravens were always one step behind the Steelers.
That all changed abruptly on November 26, 2006.
Baltimore throttled Pittsburgh that day, 27-0. I can tell you from being there, the game wasn’t as close as the score might suggest. Within 4 minutes and 40 seconds, the Ravens kicked off to the Steelers, forced a three-and-out, and scored a touchdown. That series of events set the tone for the dominant day Baltimore was about to have.
Nine sacks, three turnovers, 21 rushing yards allowed, and a shutout is a dream game for any team, especially when it comes at home against their biggest rival.
But that wasn’t the end of Baltimore’s historic day.
With 3 minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter, with the Ravens leading, 14-0, Pittsburgh had the ball, 2nd-and-8, on their own 14-yard line. The ensuing play significantly changed the culture of the Ravens/Steelers rivalry.
Bart Scott blitzed Ben Roethlisberger from Roethlisberger’s front side. Scott came free and completely leveled Roethlisberger (something I’m not sure anyone else has ever done). Roethlisberger’s head whipped back as he was de-cleated. Scott got up and celebrated while M&T Bank Stadium went berserk.
That hit sent a message to the Steelers, loud and clear.
Still, the Ravens had more damage to do and more revenge to seek.
With 4:58 left in the third quarter, defensive back Corey Ivy sacked Roethlisberger (this time, from his back side) and forced him to fumble. Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas recovered the fumble and raced down the Ravens sideline, 57 yards toward the west end zone, for the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Thomas’ touchdown put the Ravens up, 23-0, and extinguished any faint hope the Steelers may have had of coming back.
What made that play even more special for me was that I was just a few feet from Thomas when he scored. I, like Thomas, raced toward the end zone as fast as I could after he recovered Roethlisberger’s fumble. Though a guard rail prevented me from going any further, I was able to soak in the moment.
The Ravens had thoroughly and completely beaten the big bad Steelers. They proved to Pittsburgh and the rest of the NFL that they weren’t going to be bullied by their rival anymore.
That year was Baltimore’s best. They finished the season with a 13-3 record and the first season-sweep of the Steelers in 11 years. Since that day, the Ravens have a winning record against the Steelers (11-10).
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed combined for nine tackles. Jamal Lewis ran for 66 yards. It wasn’t an extraordinary day from any one player. Rather, it was the consummate team victory.
Speaking of stats, Roethlisberger’s quarterback rating in that game was 46.2. Out of 174 career games, it was his 9th-worst rating ever (playoffs included).
Besides the Ravens winning Super Bowls XXXV and XLVII, that game was the best I’ve ever seen them play.
I will never forget it.