Scouting report

September 06, 1998|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

The Ravens have a strong offensive line, but they struggled to run the ball in the last two preseason games. Left guard Wally Williams may not be in game shape yet, and center Jeff Mitchell will have problems with nose tackle Joel Steed. The Steelers still have the best run defense in the NFL. For the Ravens' running game to be effective, they must run weak side because the Steelers slant to the strong side.

Edge -- Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

Left cornerback Carnell Lake, usually the strong safety, is playing out of position filling in for the injured Chad Scott. He is beatable, as is right cornerback Dewayne Washington, who should be the nickel back. Ravens receivers Jermaine Lewis, Michael Jackson and Patrick Johnson have too much speed and could own the Pittsburgh secondary.

Edge -- Ravens

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

One of the game's best matchups. The Ravens were No. 10 in the league last year in run defense and fared well in the preseason. The Steelers rely on the running game to carry their offense. Key matchups inside the box are Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis vs. center Dermontti Dawson, and Steelers guards Roger Duffy and Brenden Stai vs. tackles James Jones and Tony Siragusa.

Edge -- EVEN

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

This is an ugly matchup. Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart is erratic and often threw into double coverage in pressure situations last year. Flanker Charles Johnson is solid, but the Steelers don't have a go-to receiver. The Ravens' secondary is suspect, especially at right cornerback. Expect the Steelers to go after left cornerback Rod Woodson, too. (Stop-and-go, out-and-up patterns).

Edge -- EVEN

Special teams

Steelers kicker Norm Johnson doesn't have great leg strength, and his kickoffs are returnable. Punter Josh Miller is inconsistent. The Ravens counter with kicker Matt Stover, who had an outstanding preseason, and inexperienced punter Kyle Richardson. Will Blackwell is a decent return guy, but he's no Jermaine Lewis.

Edge -- Ravens

Key matchup

Mitchell vs. Steed: Mitchell played fairly well in the preseason but has yet to take a regular-season snap. Steed isn't overly physical, but he runs extremely well. The stunts with Steed will give Mitchell problems, and if the Ravens can't run, they won't win.

Edge -- Steelers

Intangibles

The Steelers have won five of the past six AFC Central titles and they swept the Ravens last year. Pittsburgh also would like to ruin the Ravens' coming-out party at the new stadium. The Ravens say they have something to prove after last year's losses to the Steelers, and they'd like to start a winning streak at Camden Yards.

Edge -- Ravens

Prediction

The Steelers lose key players each year, but the system keeps working, and they haven't lost enough personnel for the Ravens to pull even. The game will be close, but the Steelers will ruin the Ravens' house party. Steelers 20, Ravens 17.

Edge -- Steelers

Keys to a Ravens victory

1. The Ravens must run the ball and control the clock behind their big offensive line, but also use their passing attack to become unpredictable.

2. Stop the Steelers' running game. Translation: Control running back Jerome Bettis and don't let him square his shoulders at the line of scrimmage.

3. Limit Kordell Stewart's big plays. Keep Stewart in the pocket and force him into passing situations. He has been known to make mistakes under pressure.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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