- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Flacco, nicknamed Joe Cool by his teammates, knows that one dominating victory over an old nemesis won't quiet everybody. "There's always going to be critics," he says. "Turn around, 10 weeks down the road, and something might happen and, O.K., it's back again."
Said Rice, "We know it's Week 1. It's not the playoffs. But that playoff taste [from last season], that's over."
At the very least the Ravens have bloodied their hated foe. The Steelers, after a Super Bowl defeat and an off-season of embarrassing headlines, face questions about their own mettle. Safety Troy Polamalu, hobbled by a left Achilles tendon injury last season, made little impact beyond a horse-collar penalty. Linebacker James Harrison, with two back surgeries in the off-season, left the game with a bruised right knee. Farrior spent more time on the sideline than usual, cradling his helmet and watching his replacement, Larry Foote. Yet while the defense is aging and the offensive line appears vulnerable, Roethlisberger didn't seem overly concerned. "I just think this was a bump in the road," he said.
As the Steelers limped out of M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens exchanged hugs and handshakes. Rice showed off a bloody two-inch gash behind his right ear. He couldn't even remember the play that cut him.
"Steelers-Ravens is like the Detroit Pistons against the Chicago Bulls," Reed said. "You go into the paint knowing you're going to get fouled."
Harbaugh agreed: "Ray [Lewis] said it earlier in the week—it was going to be about being physical and about executing. The whole thing about ghosts, demons, monkeys on your back, that's not real to us."
No, for these Ravens, there is more than a Ray of hope.