Steelers alone atop AFC North

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Their 0-2 start is now almost forgotten. After
another impressive showing Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers stand
alone atop the AFC North.

Question on the Steelers: Are we finally seeing the team folks expected to make the Super Bowl?
Yes, I think so. As long as the Steelers can get the lead and give QB Tommy Maddox an opportunity to keep the defense off balance, they'll be OK. Defensively, getting LB Kendrell Bell back has been a huge lift. The Steelers are playing much better defensively, and the D is their catalyst. As long as they continue to pressure the quarterback and get some turnovers, they'll be a tough team to beat -- especially in the AFC North, because it's not as strong as, say, the AFC West.

Question on the Ravens: Could this loss essentially put an end to Baltimore's playoff hopes?
With the absence of MLB Ray Lewis for the next game or so, I think so. Lewis' absence really hurts them, because he's not only their captain, he's their leader. It's one thing to be on the sidelines barking calls; the Ravens need him to perform on the field. They really miss him. TE Todd Heap and Jeff Blake just couldn't get it going today. The Ravens are an average club, and that's the way they're going to perform.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Tommy Maddox completed his first 11 passes and the Steelers
scored touchdowns on their first four possessions Sunday in a 31-18
victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

After coming within one win of reaching the Super Bowl last
year, the Steelers opened this season with two straight losses. But
Pittsburgh (4-3) has since regained its stature as a contender.

"You saw what a championship-caliber team looked like in the
first half,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Our guys got

Maddox threw two touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress, and Amos
Zereoue ran for two scores as Pittsburgh took a 28-3 halftime lead.
It was the Steelers' most productive first half since Sept. 8,
1996, when they scored 28 against the Ravens.

Pittsburgh, 3-1 since Maddox replaced an ineffective Kordell
Stewart as the starter, has outscored the opposition 93-35 during
its current three-game winning streak.

"O-2? I don't even remember that. As far as I'm concerned,
right now we're just 4-1,'' linebacker John Fiala said.

Maddox, a former XFL star who rejuvenated his career in
Pittsburgh, isn't about to start celebrating with nine games to go.

"We still know we've got a lot of football left. We can't start
to feel real good about it or relax,'' he said. "We've got to
continue to get better and better and continue to do the little
things right.''

The Steelers did very little wrong in the first half, when
Maddox picked apart a Baltimore defense that was forced to play a
third straight week without Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis.

"It's just one of those games where I'm seeing the field really
well,'' Maddox said. "It was a lot of fun.''

Maddox left with a sprained left ankle midway through the third
quarter but returned with 11 minutes remaining and finished
18-for-24 for 172 yards.

Zereoue, subbing for an injured Jerome Bettis, ran for 53 yards
as Pittsburgh improved to 6-1 against the Ravens in Baltimore.

"I love playing against Baltimore. I've never lost here and I
never want to,'' Burress said. "They don't like us and we don't
like them. It's that simple.''

Burress was ejected during a second-quarter altercation that
also brought about the ejection of Baltimore's James Trapp, but by
then the Steelers had a comfortable lead.

"Keeping your cool when someone's just stepped on your head
with both feet is kind of hard to do,'' Burress said.

Baltimore (3-4), which began the day tied with Pittsburgh for
the division lead, also played without quarterback Chris Redman
(back injury).

Redman was replaced by Jeff Blake in a decision made shortly
before the game began. Blake went 29-for-50 for 298 yards, passed
for a touchdown and ran for another in his first NFL start since
November 2000 with New Orleans.

But he also threw three second-half interceptions.

"I don't think I was rusty. I just forced it instead of
throwing the ball away,'' he said.

The Ravens also lost two fumbles -- one set up a Pittsburgh score
and the other ruined a promising drive.

"They didn't stop our offense. We stopped ourselves,'' Blake

Blake's 12th career rushing touchdown, a 1-yarder with 11:11
left, made it 31-18. But Jamal Lewis fumbled at the Pittsburgh 31
with 4:39 left, effectively ending the Ravens' comeback bid.

The Steelers made it look easy on their opening possession,
moving 68 yards in five plays to go up 7-0. Maddox went 3-for-3 on
the drive, which Zereoue ended with a 35-yard run behind a solid
block from fullback Dan Kreider.

It was the third straight game in which Pittsburgh scored a TD
on its first possession. There were more to come.

After a Baltimore punt, Maddox completed four passes for 63
yards -- including a beautiful 20-yard TD throw to a diving Burress
-- in an 80-yard drive that made it 14-0.

Robert Tate fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and on the first
play of the second quarter, Maddox and Burress hooked up for a
9-yard touchdown.

After the Ravens scored a field goal, Antwaan Randle El took the
kickoff past midfield and Pittsburgh went up 28-3 on a 2-yard TD
run by Zereoue.

Game notes
Zereoue's first score was the longest TD run of his career.
... The Steelers have scored at least 28 points in each of Maddox's
four starts. ... The crowd of 68,638 tied the largest in Ravens

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