From the 2011 Week 1 notes: Steelers, Ravens

Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis (52) pushes off the helmet of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers after Roethlisberger was sacked in the second half of their AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 15, 2011. REUTERS/Dave Denoma (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

Colon, who prior to spending the entire 2010 season on injured reserve, started all 50 games he played for Pittsburgh. He will add to an offensive line that led the NFL in rushing last season.

Pittsburgh also added a key veteran free agent in WR Jerricho Cotchery, who previously spent seven seasons with the New York Jets where he started 65-of-103 games played and totaled 4,514 yards on 358 receptions with 18 touchdowns. In Cotchery’s first preseason game with the Steelers he recorded two receptions for 49 yards and one touchdown.

Steelers Team Notes

  • Pittsburgh looks for its ninth straight win on Kickoff Weekend, which is the longest current streak in the NFL.
  • The Steelers look to improve to 41-32-4 all-time on Kickoff Weekend.
  • The Steelers are looking to improve to 19-12 all-time against the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Pittsburgh looks to improve to 9-7 on the road against the Ravens.
  • The Steelers look to win their fifth straight road game and improve to 20-13 on the road during the Mike Tomlin era (2007-present).

Steelers Individual Notes
Head Coach Mike Tomlin

  • Looks to improve his opening day record to 5-0, becoming the only active NFL head coach to be undefeated on opening day (John Harbaugh, 3-0).

QB Ben Roethlisberger

  • Needs six touchdown passes to equal 150 for his career, becoming only the second Steelers’ quarterback to reach the mark (Terry Bradshaw).
  • Looking to improve to 5-0 in Week One games. In four previous opening week games he has totaled 879 yards, on 67-of-91 passing with nine TDs and two interceptions for a QB rating of 127.5.
  • Has beaten Baltimore the last seven times he has played them, including the postseason.

RB Rashard Mendenhall

  • Needs two rushing touchdowns to tie Walter Abercrombie (22) for the 10th-most in the team’s history.
  • Needs 123 yards to pass Kordell Stewart (2,561) for the 14th most rushing yards in franchise history.

FOR OPENERS: Pittsburgh is 40-32-4 all-time on Kickoff Weekend. The Steelers have won eight straight openers, which is the longest streak in the NFL. The eight consecutive season-opening wins mark the team’s longest streak and the 40 wins in openers are the most in the AFC.

This marks the fourth time Pittsburgh and Baltimore have played a season opener and the first since 2003, when the Steelers won 34-15 at home. Pittsburgh is 2-1 against the Ravens in season
openers. This will mark only the second season opener the Steelers have played in Baltiomore, after Pittsburgh won 20-13 at Baltimore in 1998.

Pittsburgh’s 16-10 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s season opener was the team’s eighth straight on Kickoff Weekend, having defeated Tennessee (13-10, OT) in 2009, Houston (38-17) in 2008, Cleveland (34-7) in 2007, Miami (28-17) in 2006, Tennessee (34-7) in 2005, Oakland (24-21) in 2004 and Baltimore (34-15) in 2003.

The Steelers are 8-7 when opening on the road since 1970, including winning their last season opener on the road, 34-7 at Cleveland in 2007. It was Mike Tomlin’s first game as head coach. The last Pittsburgh loss on the road in an opener was a 30-14 setback to the New England Patriots on Sept. 9, 2002.

Baltimore was 12-4 in the regular season last year, and finished second behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North. The Ravens were a Wild Card team and advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoff, where they lost to the Steelers:

RAVENS/STEELERS LIKELY TO BE CLOSE: In five of the last eight games played between the Ravens and Steelers, the margin of victory has been 3 points. The difference in another was 4 points and then 7 points in last January’s Divisional Playoff round. (In that game at Heinz Field, the Ravens had a 21-7 halftime lead, but lost 31-24 when the Steelers scored a TD with less than three minutes left.)

Date – Score; Stadium
1/15/11* – Steelers 31, Ravens 24;  Heinz
12/5/10 – Steelers 13, Ravens 10; M&T Bank
10/3/10 – Ravens 17, Steelers 14; Heinz
12/27/09 – Steelers 23, Ravens 20; Heinz
11/29/09 – Ravens 20, Steelers 17 (OT); M&T Bank
1/18/09* – Steelers 23, Ravens 14; Heinz
12/14/08 – Steelers 13, Ravens 9; M&T Bank
9/29/08 – Steelers 23, Ravens 20 (OT); Heinz
* Playoff games; rest are past six regular season contests

NOTE OF THE WEEK: The Ravens’ defense has ranked No. 3 in fewest points allowed per game for three consecutive seasons (2008-10). Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only eight teams have produced three straight campaigns with a top 3 scoring defense. Baltimore’s current three-year run is the first since Dallas’ four straight top 3s from 1993-96.

(Since 1970 AFL-NFL Merger)
Team – Seasons (Years)
Dallas Cowboys – 4 (1993-96)
Los Angeles Rams – 4 (1974-77)
Minnesota Vikings – 4 (1973-76)
San Francisco 49ers – 4 (1984-87)
Baltimore Ravens – 3 (2008-10)
Chicago Bears – 3 (1984-86)
Miami Dolphins – 3 (1971-73)
Pittsburgh Steelers – 3 (1974-76)

RICE HITS 100: The Steelers’ stout defense has only allowed one 100-yard rusher in their last 50 games (dating back to 2007). That player is Ravens RB Ray Rice, who posted 141 yards on 30 carries on 12/27/09.

FROM THE NFL PR OFFICE: A look at the Steelers-Ravens game from the notes provided by the NFL PR staff and the Elias Sports Bureau:

STEELERS: Head coach Mike Tomlin is 4-0 on Kickoff Weekend … Incl. postseason, QB Ben Roethlisberger is 9-2 (.818) as starter vs. Ravens & has 17 TDs vs. 9 INTs & 84.8 passer rating. Has thrown career-best 158 consecutive passes in regular season without INT, longest such streak by Steelers QB since Kordell Stewart (159 consecutive passes without INT in ’01) … RB Rashard Mendenhall (1,273 rush yards, 13 rush TDs in ’10) joined Willie Parker (1,494 rush yards, 13 rush TDs in ’06) as only Steelers w/ 1,200+ rush yards & at least 13 rush TDs in season … WR Hines Ward (11,702) needs 133 receiving yards to surpass HOFer Don Maynard for 20th in NFL history. In ’10, WR Mike Wallace (7) tied HOFer John Stallworth (7 in ’84) for most 100-yard rec. games in season in club history … Steelers allowed NFL-low 62.8 rushing yards per game last season, 5th-fewest per game in NFL history … LB James Harrison became 1st Steeler to post double-digit sacks in 3 consecutive seasons (16 in ’08; 10 in ’09; 10.5 in ’10) … Incl. playoffs, LB LaMarr Woodley has 8.5 sacks vs. Bal., most vs. any opponent.

RAVENS: Incl. postseason, John Harbaugh has led Ravens to 36 wins as head coach, 3rd-most in NFL since ’08 (Colts, 38; Steelers 38). Harbaugh is 3-0 on Kickoff Weekend … QB Joe Flacco had 3,622 passing yards & 25 TDs in ’10, both rank 2nd in Ravens history. Flacco is 19-5 (.792) as home starter & has completed 419 of 671 passes (62.4 pct.) for 5,125 yards w/ 29 TDs vs. 13 INTs & 92.3 rating … For career, RB Ray Rice averages 121.4 rush yards per game when he has 25+ att. (607 total in 5 games) … RB Ricky Williams will make Ravens debut … WR Anquan Boldin posted 5 rec. for 118 yards (23.6 avg.) with TD catch in last game vs. Pit … WR Lee Evans will make Ravens debut. Evans (5,934) needs 66 rec. yards to reach 6,000 career … S Ed Reed had NFL-best 8 INTs in ’10. Since ’02, Reed leads NFL with 54 INTs … LB Terrell Suggs (68.5) needs 2 sacks to surpass Peter Boulware (70) for most sacks in Ravens history. Incl. postseason, Suggs has 15.5 career sacks vs. Pit … LB Ray Lewis led team with 145 tackles in ’10.

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