BALTIMORE (AP) – Any chance the Pittsburgh Steelers had of returning to the Super Bowl was seemingly laid to rest by the Baltimore Ravens, who are in the midst of their own title run.

The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger nine times Sunday and coasted to their fifth straight victory, a 27-0 blowout that left the Steelers with only a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs.

Baltimore (9-2) limited the defending NFL champions to 36 yards in the decisive first half. The nine sacks, which totaled 73 yards and matched a Ravens franchise record, included a vicious hit by Bart Scott that forced Roethlisberger out of the game in the second quarter.

Roethlisberger missed only one play, but for the rest of the afternoon he was harassed by a relentless rush. It was the second time this year that the Steelers were shut out; the last time Pittsburgh was blanked at least twice in a season was in 1989.

The Steelers (4-7) had won two straight following a 2-6 start, but their resurgence was emphatically squelched by the hated Ravens, who now lead Pittsburgh in the AFC North by five games with five to play.

Four of the Steelers’ first six drives ended in three-and-outs. The seventh concluded with a sack and subsequent fumble that Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas returned 57 yards for a touchdown. It gave the Ravens a 24-0 lead with 4:46 left in the third quarter.

Roethlisberger went 21-for-41 for 214 yards and two interceptions. Willie Parker got only 15 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 20.

Baltimore led 17-0 at halftime after limiting Pittsburgh to three first downs and compiling a 215-36 advantage in total yardage. Steve McNair spent most of the second half handing off the ball after going 13-for-17 for 121 yards and a touchdown in the opening 30 minutes.

McNair went 18-for-24 for 140 yards before being replaced by Kyle Boller with just over 10 minutes to play.

Jamal Lewis ran for 66 yards and a touchdown, and Todd Heap had seven catches for 58 yards and a score.

Baltimore is 5-0 since coach Brian Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and began calling the plays himself. The offense was impressive, but the key to the blowout was a defense that welcomed back middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed the previous two games with a back injury.

Lewis was credited with six tackles, including a sack. Terrell Suggs had six tackles and two sacks, the last with just under 11 minutes left with Pittsburgh facing a fourth-and-goal at the 10.

The Ravens set the tone on their opening possession, moving 56 yards in six plays for a 7-0 lead. McNair went 4-for-4 for 51 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Heap.

While the Steelers struggled offensively, Baltimore gained favorable field position through a series of punts and began its fourth drive on the Pittsburgh 47. Eight plays later, Jamal Lewis pounded in from the 1 to make it 14-0.

Later in the second quarter, Scott zipped around left end untouched and flattened Roethlisberger with a driving hit to the chest. The quarterback lay prone for several minutes before finally walking off the field on his own.

Charlie Batch entered for one play, a 10-yard completion to Parker on a third-and-16.

AP-ES-11-26-06 1609EST

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