Neujahr will have hands full against Steed Center faces major test from Steelers' speedy, experienced nose guard

Ravens notebook

October 04, 1997|By Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht | Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

One of the most important matchups in the Ravens' game with the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow will be center Quentin Neujahr against Steelers nose guard Joel Steed.

Neujahr will be making only the fifth start of his career. Steed has been in the league since 1992 and is regarded as one of the NFL's best at his position; he has the explosiveness and speed to disrupt an entire rushing attack.

Last year, Steed finished with 46 tackles and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Neujahr, in his third season, was expected to be the Ravens' No. 2 center this season, but starter Wally Williams was sidelined with a ruptured Achilles' tendon in late April.

Neujahr has performed well this season, but Steed will be his toughest test. Neujahr has also been bothered by a sprained ankle that forced the team to give left starting guard Leo Goeas a lot of repetitions at center this week.

"They say he's the best player I've faced and I'll know after the game," Neujahr said. "During the first day of meetings this week, [offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz] said he was the best guy on their defensive line and he plays the game hard every down."

Neujahr said he doesn't expect much help on Steed.

"They blitz so much that you can't waste two people on a block," Neujahr said. "Maybe that's why he's so effective, because he gets those one-on-one matchups."

Tight end Eric Green dismissed his Pittsburgh ties as a source of added incentive for tomorrow's AFC Central showdown with the Steelers.

"I've been gone from Pittsburgh too long to get too excited about this game," Green said. He was a first-round draft pick of the Steelers in 1990 who left Pittsburgh after the 1994 season -- and two Pro Bowl appearances -- to sign as a free agent with Miami. Green joined the Ravens a year ago.

Green's last playing time during his injury-hampered, partial 1996 season came in the Ravens' final victory, a 31-17 pasting of Pittsburgh at Memorial Stadium. Green caught a touchdown pass, punctuating it with a memorable taunt directed toward the Steelers' sideline.

"I was just talking to my man, [linebacker] Greg Lloyd [who missed nearly all of 1996 with a knee injury]," Green said. He already has surpassed last year's reception total with 18 catches.

"He was running his mouth on the sidelines, and he wasn't even playing. I'll probably get the chance to block him quite a few times [tomorrow]. I'm looking forward to it.

"We can beat [the Steelers]. We know we can beat them. We know they have a lot of good personnel, so we're not taking them for granted. But last year, we kind of looked at them as icons in the league. That's not the case this year."

Bringing him along

Rookie fullback Kenyon Cotton's education goes on. After becoming a training-camp surprise and beating out draft pick Steve Lee for a job, Cotton is learning the game primarily on special teams. He also has worked sparingly as the lead blocker on the rare occasions the Ravens have gone with a two-back set.

"I guess I'm kind of a project right now. I'm just working to be consistent, trying to improve my skills every week in practice," said Cotton, who is battling a sore shoulder. "I've got to keep working on my blocking skills; get better angles, use better techniques. I'm getting the chance to witness things at full speed on the sidelines."

Cotton has watched enough of Pittsburgh's veteran fullback, Tim Lester, who is 5 feet 10 and 238 pounds, to form a glowing opinion of his counterpart.

"I just watch [Lester] and take notes. He is dominating," Cotton said.

Cowher was tempted

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher came extremely close to providing a lifetime highlight clip two weeks ago when the Steelers dropped a 30-21 decision in Jacksonville.

On the game's final play, the Steelers had a possible, game-winning field-goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown. On the play, Cowher stepped onto the field and nearly attempted to tackle Jacksonville safety Chris Hudson after he recovered the block.

"In my mind, the game was over. I was frustrated, and I was just going to kick the ball,"Cowher said. "When he picked up the ball, I can say the thought [of tackling him] did cross my mind. But I would never do that. That's being known for all the wrong reasons."

Miscellaneous

In two games against the Ravens last year, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis rushed for a total of 221 yards and a touchdown on 45 carries. Through four games this season, the Steelers have run the ball 132 times and passed only 85. A week after Ravens RB Earnest Byner played in his 200th career game, Ravens CB Eugene Daniel, who has replaced Donny Brady on the right side, will play in his 200th contest. Safety Kim Herring (knee) and DT Tony Siragusa (ankle) were not able to practice yesterday. Coach Ted Marchibroda is holding out slim hope that Siragusa can enter and contribute against Pittsburgh. "It doesn't look too good right now, but Tony has been able to do it [play

without practicing the previous week] in the past," Marchibroda said.

Ravens schedule

(

Date Opp. Time Res./TV

8/31 Jacksonville L, 28-27

9/7 Cincinnati W, 23-10

9/14 at N.Y. Giants W, 24-23

9/21 at Tennessee W, 36-10

9/28 at San Diego L, 21-17

10/5 Pittsburgh 1 Ch. 11

10/12 Open

10/19 Miami 4 Ch. 11

10/26 at Washington 1 Ch. 11

11/2 at N.Y. Jets 1 Ch. 11

11/9 at Pittsburgh 8 ESPN

11/16 Philadelphia 1 Ch. 45

11/23 Arizona 1 Ch. 45

11/30 at Jacksonville 1 Ch. 11

12/7 Seattle 1 Ch. 11

12/14 Tennessee 1 Ch. 11

12/21 at Cincinnati 1 Ch. 11

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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