Scouting report

November 09, 1997|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

Powered by Bam Morris, the Ravens' running attack has improved dramatically the past two weeks. But it is still questionable whether the Ravens are powerful enough to match up and have success against the Steelers' second-ranked rush defense. Ravens center Wally Williams must control nose tackle Joel Steed.

Edge -- Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

The key here is for the Ravens' offensive line to keep pressure off quarterback Vinny Testaverde, and for Testaverde to read his defensive keys well. Pittsburgh's defensive backs, especially cornerbacks Donnell Woolford and Carnell Lake, can't keep pace with Ravens receivers Derrick Alexander and Jermaine Lewis and tight end Eric Green.

Edge -- Ravens

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Run stopper Tony Siragusa, in for just five plays in the first meeting because of an ankle injury, is healthy and back in the lineup. Pittsburgh ran mostly off tackle in that game, which it probably will do again today. Ends Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett and outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper must have big games for the Ravens.

Edge -- Steelers

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

This one could go either way. Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart is inconsistent, but if he gets in a groove he can do a lot of damage because the Ravens' cornerbacks can't handle Steelers receivers Yancey Thigpen and Courtney Hawkins. The Pittsburgh passing game and the Ravens' pass defense are both ranked No. 27 in the league.

Edge -- Even

Special teams

The Ravens' special teams were horrendous last week against the Jets, but that probably won't happen again tonight. The Ravens have better punt return and cover units than the Steelers, but Pittsburgh has better kickoff return and cover units. The difference in the units is Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who has converted 22 of 24 field-goal attempts.

Edge -- Ravens

Key matchup

Ravens guards Jeff Blackshear and Ben Cavil and center Williams against nose tackle Steed and inside linebackers Levon Kirkland and Earl Holmes. The strength of the Steelers' defense is inside and the Ravens have to go there to get their running game in high gear. If the Ravens win this battle, then they'll be able to run the ball and possibly control the clock.

Edge -- Even

Intangibles

The Steelers are nearly unbeatable at home and are coming off a Monday night loss to Kansas City. The Ravens have incentive after blowing a 21-point lead to Pittsburgh in the last meeting. But that works in the Steelers' favor, too, because they know they can come back against the Ravens.

Edge -- Steelers

Prediction

The Ravens will play hard but again suffer a second-half meltdown. Pittsburgh has the Ravens' number at Three Rivers Stadium. Steelers by four.

Edge -- Steelers

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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