Bryant McKinnie Defies Expectations

BALTIMORE- Bryant McKinnie fired off the line of scrimmage, bashing Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison before rumbling downfield to pick off middle linebacker James Farrior.

The blocks paved a path for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice to gain 36 yards on the first play from scrimmage Sunday, setting up a touchdown.

"I got my man," McKinnie said. "So, I thought, ‘Why not go block somebody else?'"

For a hefty offensive tackle that was expected to struggle with the Steelers' formidable defense, McKinnie defied expectations.

"To come in for the biggest game for them, I felt a little pressure and I feel like I play well under pressure," said McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 360-pound former Pro Bowl left tackle signed by the Ravens in August after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings when he reported at 387 pounds. "For somebody who hasn't played in eight months, any games since January, I feel like I did a pretty good job."

And the Ravens' new-look offensive line that didn't play a single snap together during the preseason allowed only one sack during the Ravens' 35-7 victory Sunday over the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns against the NFL's top-ranked run defense from a year ago.

"The protection was fantastic, that's something against this football team that you have to be concerned with," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I know everyone in this room who follows this team had a concern with that, and I guarantee you I had a concern with that, too. I think we did a good job of game-planning the protection.

"The main thing was the one-on-one battles, the one-on-one battles across the board that we won. The offensive line was a big part of that. That's how you win football games."

Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk didn't play any preseason games after having surgery on his left knee at the start of training camp. His knee appeared to hold up against beefy Steelers nose guard Casey Hampton.

"It feels great," he said. "Every time you win, you feel a lot better than when you lose."

Michael Oher was moved back to right tackle for the first time since his rookie year. And right guard Marshal Yanda missed most of the preseason with back spasms. The only starter that played at his usual spot during the preseason was left guard Ben Grubbs.

Most of the pressure was on McKinnie because he had to block Harrison, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"I told my mom, ‘I haven't played since Jan. 2,'" McKinnie said. "I just felt like I was the weakest link, so I wanted to make sure I held down my part."

Last season, the Steelers led the NFL with 48 sacks. Their pass rush is headlined by Harrison and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who combine for 20 ½ sacks last season,.

However, Harrison was limited to nine tackles and one quarterback hit on Sunday as Woodley registered the Steelers' lone sack.
Quarterback Joe Flacco took advantage of the increased time, connecting on 17 of 29 throws for 224 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Those guys did a great job," Flacco said. "I've been saying all week, I'm really confident in the way these guys are going to play. It's a great group of guys. Bryant is the only guy who hasn't been there. ‘

"I wasn't worried about that. I know Bryant is a really good left tackle. So, why worry about it anyway? I felt comfortable back there all day."

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