Scouting report -- STEELERS (2-2) AT RAVENS (3-2)

October 05, 1997|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

The Ravens got a boost last Sunday when Bam Morris returned after a four-game suspension to rush for 81 yards on 17 carries, but Pittsburgh plays the run better than San Diego. The Steelers are ranked No. 2 against the rush, and their inside personnel of nose tackle Joel Steed and linebackers Levon Kirkland and Earl Holmes may be too strong for the Ravens.

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

The Steelers rank No. 28 in pass defense with Randy Fuller and Donnell Woolford on the corners, so the Ravens' Derrick Alexander, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Lewis and Eric Green should have big games. Plus, quarterback Vinny Testaverde has had considerable success against zone-blitz teams since working in the Ravens' system.

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

This should be an interesting matchup because the Steelers are No. 2 in the league in rushing, averaging 149.3 yards, and the Ravens are No. 7 against the run, allowing 94.0. But the Steelers may have some advantages at key positions, with left tackle John Jackson against defensive end Michael McCrary and center Dermontti Dawson on second-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Plus, the Ravens' top run-stopper, tackle Tony Siragusa, isn't completely healed from an ankle injury.

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

The Steelers' pass offense is ranked last in the league and the Ravens' pass defense is No. 29. Pittsburgh has capable receivers in Yancey Thigpen and Charles Johnson, but quarterback Kordell Stewart is erratic, especially throwing the long ball. The Ravens' secondary will be upgraded with veteran Eugene Daniel replacing Donny Brady at right cornerback, leaving the safeties free to make some plays in the middle of the field.

Special teams -- EVEN

Neither punter, Pittsburgh's Josh Miller and the Ravens' Greg Montgomery, has had an exceptional year, but give a slight edge to Miller, the former Baltimore Stallion. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has had a stronger and more reliable leg this season than the Steelers' Norm Johnson. Both teams are consistent on special teams, but Ravens return specialist Jermaine Lewis is more of a dual threat to break open a game than counterpart Will Blackwell.

Key matchups

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis vs. Steelers center Dermontti Dawson and Ravens center Quentin Neujahr vs. Steelers nose tackle Joel Steed: Dawson taught Lewis a lesson in the first meeting last year, but Lewis rebounded well in the rematch. Steed is a load in the middle who plays hard every down. He'll be the toughest player Neujahr has faced this season.

Intangibles

The Ravens are home for the first time since Week 2 and a sellout crowd should work in their favor. Testaverde didn't play well last week and he usually follows up with a strong performance.

Prediction

This one should be real close, but the home-field advantage gives the Ravens a three-point win.

Keys to a Ravens victory

1 Stop the run. The Steelers basically rely on running back Jerome Bettis to dominate and dictate their offensive scheme.

2 Establish a running game. The Ravens need balance so the Steelers can't turn their pass rush loose on passing situations.

3 Control Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart. His ability to run is more dangerous than his throwing arm.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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