Roethlisberger is Ravens' Kryptonite

Ben Roethlisberger (Getty Images)

In spite of great adversity last month, Ben Roethlisberger found a way to beat the Ravens. He'll be healthy Saturday and gunning for his seventh consecutive win against the Steelers' main rival.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger admits that he still gets the jitters. And he admits that he hates to play the Baltimore Ravens.

But the Steelers' quarterback would not admit that a bad foot and broken nose affected his performance the last time the Steelers played the Ravens.

Oh, there were a couple things Roethlisberger couldn't do: "Blow my nose and play hopscotch," he said.

Other than that, Roethlisberger wouldn't make excuses for the sputterings of the just-installed "pistol" offense.

"We practiced it three days before the game," Roethlisberger said of the shorter shotgun formation. "That's the first time anyone had done it. It was hard for all of us to do, to get used to, but we had to do it and we did it."

If the Ravens' chances in Saturday's playoff game are bolstered by the return to health of tight end Todd Heap – as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin insists – how much will the Steelers be helped by a healthy Roethlisberger?

With Roethlisberger limping and having trouble breathing, courtesy of Haloti Ngata, the Steelers scored only one touchdown against the Ravens. But the 9-yard pass on third down – after LaMarr Woodley had returned a fumble to the Baltimore 9 late in the game – was just enough for the Steelers to pull out the win.

Roethlisberger did struggle. He threw an interception – his only one in the last seven games – and had a passer rating of 75.9, his second-lowest of the season to the 66.8 rating he posted against New Orleans.

It clearly wasn't his best game, yet Roethlisberger found a way to keep his record perfect against Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

"I was impressed," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told Baltimore reporters on Monday. "He's a Miami (Ohio) guy. He's a tough guy. He had the broken nose. I was glad we broke his nose, (laughter) and I was very impressed that he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose. He proved that."

Harbaugh was very nearly brought up on charges here for parts of his comment, but Roethlisberger took no offense.

"I know coach Harbaugh," Roethlisberger said. "He's a Miami guy. Us Miami guys stick together because there are so few of us. On the field before every game we talk to each other, say hello, give a hug, ask how everything is going. I don't think it was meant maliciously at all."

The same might be said of Ngata's errant fist, or the continuing battles Roethlisberger has had with Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed over the years.

The Baltimore media asked Roethlisberger how he prioritizes Baltimore's defensive superstars.

"It's every guy. That's what I told them," Roethlisberger said. "They asked me about Ed Reed. ‘Yeah, you've got to know where Ed is. You gotta know where Suggs is. You gotta know where Ngata is. You gotta know where Ray is.' You can't pick one guy out because then you've got 10 other guys that are not accounted for. They're just too good to do that with one guy."

Yet, against one of the new NFL's great defenses, Roethlisberger is 8-2 as a starter. The Steelers won his last six starts against the Ravens after losing both of Roethlisberger's 2006 starts. The last three wins in the series have all been by three points, with Roethlisberger making the clutch plays late.

"I guess I'm lucky," he said. "These are always good games, and for it to happen again in the playoffs is what everyone wanted to see."

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