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Ravens made it easy for Ben Roethlisberger

11/3/2014

PITTSBURGH -- An argument can be made that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is the most valuable player on the team after Sunday night's 43-23 loss at Heinz Field.

In their first game without their top cornerback, the Ravens allowed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw six touchdown passes, nearly matching the total they allowed in the first eight games of the season (a league-low seven).

The Ravens' strategy was to drop seven into coverage, but they still couldn't stop the Steelers receivers from running free. Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns against four or fewer pass-rushers Sunday, matching the most in a game in ESPN Stats & Information's data set (since 2006).

"We are missing a great player, but we are capable guys in the secondary," cornerback Dominique Franks said.

On Sunday night, it looked like the Ravens had slow guys in the secondary. Franks and safety Darian Stewart watched Martavis Bryant get open against their zone defense for a 19-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Lardarius Webb was too late to get out of his backpedal and let Markus Wheaton get separation for a 47-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half. In the fourth quarter, Chykie Brown was easily beaten by Antonio Brown for a 54-yard touchdown, and Franks and Will Hill were late to converge on Bryant for a 18-yard score.

None of this should come as a surprise. It was more a validation of their worst fears. Webb missed three of the first four games because of a back injury. Franks wasn't in the league for the first five weeks of the season. And Chykie Brown was benched after the season opener when he gave up the winning 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.

There was hope that safety Hill, who was suspended for the first six games of the season, would provide a lift for the secondary. In his first start, Hill didn't make much of an impact and was stiff-armed by Antonio Brown on his long touchdown.

The Ravens forced the Steelers into three three-and-outs in the first quarter because they were able to get pressure on Roethlisberger. There was one series when the Ravens sacked him on three straight plays.

Once Roethlisberger got time, the Ravens' secondary was no match for the depth and speed of the Steelers' receivers. It marked only the second time in his 18 meetings with the Ravens that Roethlisberger threw more than two touchdowns in a game.

"You could have never sold me on that during the week," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He had a heck of a day, and that is a reflection on us all."

So, when will Smith return? He went through the Ravens' locker room on Friday on crutches with his foot in a protective boot. Even though the Ravens haven't given a specific timetable on Smith, he likely won't be back for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. Smith has a better chance of returning after the bye the next week.