By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BALTIMORE -- They didn't expect it to end like this, not with a performance as flat and uninspiring as a South Dakota prairie.
They didn't expect it to end with their quarterback on his back, their running game non-existent, or their offensive line in desperate search of a fire marshall to limit the amount of Baltimore Ravens in the backfield.
But, when it was all over yesterday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium -- not just the game, but the season -- the Steelers never really expected it to end with their defense getting moved around like office furniture.
At least, not when they still had some measure of hope, however small, of making a run at the playoffs.
"That's our niche," said linebacker Clark Haggans. "I was surprised they moved the ball as much as they did."
Coach Bill Cowher called it a "pitiful performance," and he lumped everyone under the umbrella -- offense, defense and special teams.
And, as bad as the offense performed in a 27-0 shutout loss to the Ravens, the defense was even more humiliated at the manner in which they were shredded for 30 minutes by two players who have tormented them in the past -- quarterback Steve McNair and running back Jamal Lewis.
Sure, Ben Roethlisberger had three more turnovers, raising his season total to 21, four of which have been returned for touchdowns. And Willie Parker, who can't seem to run on the road, had a season-low 22 yards on 10 carries, despite a 12-yard run on his second carry of the game.
In the end, though, when the Ravens put everything but the mathematical nail in the Steelers' season, it was the defense which performed like a Thanksgiving turkey.
"I got no words for this," Haggans said. "Just everything unpleasant."
"That one drive they had they just ran it right down our throats," said defensive end Brett Keisel.
"That's not what this defense is about."