Originally created 09/07/98

Steelers top Ravens in contest



BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens followed a marvelous preseason by making a month's worth of mistakes in the first game that really counted.

Kordell Stewart scored Pittsburgh's first touchdown after the Ravens botched a punt and the Steelers took advantage of at least a dozen Baltimore miscues Sunday in a 20-13 victory.

At the housewarming party for their new stadium, the Ravens were the ones handing out gifts. Baltimore followed a 4-0 preseason by missing three field goals, dropping several passes and amassing 50 yards in penalties.

The miscues overshadowed the Ravens' statistical domination -- they outgained Pittsburgh 376-271 -- and minimized a defense that twice intercepted Stewart and limited Jerome Bettis to 41 yards in 23 carries.

"Too many mistakes against a caliber of team like that and you'll never win. Never," said Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who had nine tackles.

Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh left for good midway in the second quarter after suffering a slight fracture of the ring finger on his right hand. The injury apparently occurred when he hit the ground after being hit by Carnell Lake.

He is questionable for the game next week against the New York Jets.

Backup Eric Zeier threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Lewis with 2:48 left to bring Baltimore to 20-13. But a 68-yard punt by Josh Miller left the Ravens at their 4 with 27 seconds left, and the Steelers let loose a collective sigh of relief at the final gun.

"We certainly didn't play up to some standards offensively, but I thought we played pretty good defensively," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "The bottom line in this business is finding a way to win, and we were able to do that."

The Ravens' perfect preseason included a pair of victories at their $223 million stadium. But things were decidedly different at the formal opening -- right from the opening kickoff.

Harper Le Bel, a replacement for the injured Brian Kinchen, twice had poor snaps that led to missed field goals by Matt Stover. Le Bel then lowlighted a miserable day by sending a one-hopper to punter Kyle Richardson in the third quarter.

Richardson was tackled for a 31-yard loss, and Stewart scored from the 1 for a 13-3 lead. Stewart threw a 20-yard TD pass to Charles Johnson on Pittsburgh's next possession to make it 20-3 with 10 minutes left.

"When you don't play your best and you win, you're happy. But you're not happy about how you won the game," Stewart said. "It's just a matter of going back, looking at film and trying to rectify the things we didn't do well."

Le Bel didn't need to look at the film to find out what he did wrong.

"What hurts me more than anything is the effect it has on my teammates. I was responsible for a lot of what happened today," he said.

Le Bel was not alone. Guard Wally Williams twice jumped offside in third-and-short situations.

"We can't beat ourselves. We can't get penalties on third and short," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We have to cut down on the mistakes. I didn't think we would make that many mistakes as we did."

After a fireworks-filled pregame ceremony, Baltimore got off to an awful start. Stover's kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Steelers the ball at their 40, and Pittsburgh converted two third-and-9 plays before Norm Johnson kicked a 27-yard field goal.

A 15-yard punt return by Jermaine Lewis set up a 41-yard field goal by Stover late in the first quarter. Stewart ended the next two Pittsburgh drives by throwing interceptions, but poor snaps by Le Bel caused Stover to miss successive 42-yard field goal attempts.

Le Bel finally got it right in the third quarter, but Stover pulled a 45-yard attempt wide left.

Down 20-3, the Ravens moved to the Pittsburgh 6 with seven minutes left. Marchibroda called for a field goal on fourth-and-4 from the 6, and many in the crowd of 68,847 booed as the ball went through the uprights.

[bf]Notes:[nf] Steelers backup Richard Huntley had a 48-yard run ruined when rookie Duane Starks punched the ball away and out of the end zone. ... Pittsburgh cornerback Deshea Townsend sprained his right knee on the first play of the second quarter and did not return. ... Stover's first miss ended a streak of nine straight successes over two seasons. ... Baltimore's Rod Woodson, playing his first game against the team he starred with for nine years, left in the fourth quarter with back spasms. ... Pittsburgh LB Earl Holmes left in the fourth quarter with a sprained right knee.