Pride, revenge on line for Steelers
It was a sight to behold, an in-your-face disgrace.
What the Baltimore Ravens' defense did a year ago to the Steelers' offensive line and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, left tackle Marvel Smith can't forget.
There was no place for Willie Parker to run and no place for Roethlisberger -- who was sacked 14 times in two humiliating losses against the Ravens -- to hide.
Facing blitzes from an assortment of angles, the Steelers' offensive line needed a slide rule to determine where the pass rush was coming from.
When the Ravens visit Heinz Field tomorrow night, Smith and the rest of the offensive line can't afford to think about those 2006 debacles, or even last week. But the motivation will be there just the same.
When somebody takes something belonging to you -- in the Steelers' case, the Ravens took their pride -- you have to be willing to take it back at all costs.
"When you lose to a rival, you're always going to remember it," Smith said. "I don't even look at tape from last year. I'm looking at what they're doing this year, and what we're doing this year. We already know the outcome of those games. Nothing we did in those games is going to help us."
Smith plays what is considered the most valuable position on the offensive line. Left tackles are the highest-paid because they protect the quarterback's blind side.
Smith will face a defense featuring end Trevor Pryce, Baltimore's best pass-rushing lineman who's back from an injury. Pryce is an accomplished veteran with a bag full of pass-rushing tricks. He has 78 career sacks.
"Last year was last year," Smith said. "I guarantee if I ask you guys (media) if we were a good team last year, you'd probably say we weren't. If I ask you the same question this year, you'd probably say we were. We're two different teams."
Nobody pays much attention to offensive linemen unless they're called for a penalty or beaten for a sack. Then everybody wants to know their life story.
Smith's story: A second-round draft pick in 2000, he's been entrenched as a starter since the first game of his rookie season. He's used to the pressure he'll surely encounter tomorrow, having started three years at Arizona State and allowing only one sack and not being called for a penalty as a senior.
Quiet and unassuming, Smith, like most offensive linemen, has a coach's keen understanding of the game. He also has a surprising sense of humor.
Being able to laugh, especially at yourself, is probably a good trait for an offensive lineman to have, especially a veteran left tackle whose responsibility includes protecting his quarterback's blind side against an opponent that manhandled the Steelers last season.
Given what happened in those two games, Smith and the offensive line taking on the Ravens' defensive line could be the most important matchup in tomorrow night's battle for supremacy in the AFC North.