Ravens At Steelers

Nfl Week 1

Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m., Ch. 13

September 03, 2000|By KEN MURRAY

Scouting report

Ravens rushing vs. Steelers run defense

STEELERS

The Ravens' running game was inconsistent in the preseason, averaging 3.8 yards a carry and 104.5 a game. That included a couple of long quarterback scrambles, however. RB Priest Holmes looked good in his limited time. How the Ravens use Jamal Lewis is still in question. Cohesiveness could be an issue on the right side, where new guard Mike Flynn and tackle Harry Swayne played in only two games. The Steelers were tough against the run in five preseason games, giving up 3.1 an attempt and 83.8 a game.

Ravens passing vs. Steelers pass defense

RAVENS

QB Tony Banks had a so-so preseason, completing just 50.9 percent of his throws as he adjusted to tight end Shannon Sharpe. WR Qadry Ismail showed he'll be a force again. The Steelers had nine interceptions in the preseason, four by backup cornerbacks. Dewayne Washington, who gave up two touchdowns to Ismail a year ago, is back at right corner, with ex-Maryland star Chad Scott on the left side.

Steelers rushing vs. Ravens run defense

RAVENS

The Steelers pounded out 155.6 rush yards a game in the preseason, but Jerome Bettis hasn't hit 100 against the Ravens since 1997. Baltimore has gone 17 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. With Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams at the tackles, and MLB Ray Lewis behind them, that streak could go awhile. The Steelers must run to set up the pass.

Steelers passing vs. Ravens pass defense

RAVENS

Kordell Stewart completed just 19 of 55 passes (34.5 percent) in a horrid preseason and lost his job to Kent Graham (54.4 percent). The question, though, is not if Stewart plays, but when. The pass rush on the less-mobile Graham will be fierce. If the QB can get the ball off, 6-5 Plaxico Burress is a big target. The Ravens came up with seven picks in the preseason.

Special teams

RAVENS

The Steelers gave up big returns in the preseason-a 62-yard kick-off return and a 54-yard punt return - and look vulnerable, even though punter Josh Miller is one of the best in the league. Ravens kicker Matt Stover was 6-for-8 on field goals this summer, and his counterpart, Kris Brown, was 7-for-11.

Intangibles

RAVENS

The Steelers want to get the hometown crowd off Stewart's back, and using him in relief is the logical way to proceed. When he is used appears to be the issue. The Ravens are starting a stretch of five road games in the first seven, and have made that a focal point of preparations. They can take the hostility out of the Pittsburgh crowd - and redirect it - with a quick start.

Prediction

RAVENS

If the Steelers could make one quarterback out of Graham and Stewart, they'd have a pretty good one. They can't do that, though. And they don't have the offensive weapons to challenge what might be the best defense in the league. The Ravens' new-look offense will get enough working to produce a 24-3 victory.

The breakdown

Line: Ravens by 3

Vs. spread, 1999: Ravens 9- 5- 2; Steelers 5-10-1.

Last meeting: Ravens beat Steelers, 31-24, on Dec. 12, 1999, at Pittsburgh.

Quick hits: Tony Banks was 6-5 as starter last season with 11 TDs vs. 5 INTs over last 5 games. ... Qadry Ismail had career best 258 yards receiving and 3 TDs on 6 catches in last meeting. ... Shannon Sharpe (552) and Ben Coates (490) are second and fifth, respectively, in career TE receptions. ... Michael McCrary has 481/2 sacks over past 4 seasons, third-most in NFL. ... Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis has 598 yards rushing in seven games vs. Ravens. ... Steelers offense features No. 1 picks at WR in each of past 2 years, Troy Edwards ('99) and PIaxico Burress ('00).

Injuries: RAVENS. Out T Kipp Vickers (knee). Questionable: S Anthony Poindexter (thigh). Probable: WR Billy Davis (thigh). LB Jamie Sharper (knee).

STEELERS. Out DL Chris Sullivan (back). Questionable: C Dermontti Dawson (hamstrIng); G Tom Myslinski (groin). LB Donnel Thompson (ankle); Probable: S Brent Alexander (ankle); RB Jerome Bettis (knee); WR Bobby Shaw (back); S Scott Shields (glute).

The lineups

Ravens offense

WR 87'Qadry Ismail

LT 75 Jonathan Ogden

LG 64 Edwin Mulitalo

C 60 Jeff Mitchell

RG 62 Mike Flynn

RT 70 Harry Swayne

TE 82 Shannon Sharpe

WR 89 Travis Taylor

QB 12 Tony Banks

RB 33 Priest Holmes

FB 30 Obafemi Ayanbadejo

Steelers defense

DE 91 Aaron Smith

NT 67 Kimo Von Oelhoffen

DE 76 Kevin Henry

OLB 92 Jason Gildon

ILB 99 Levon Kirkland

ILB 50 Earl Holmes

OLB 55 Joey Porter

LC 30 Chad Scott

FS 27 Brent Alexander

SS 41 Lee Flowers

RC 20 Dewayne Washington

Steelers offense

SE 80 Plaxico Burress

LT 72 Wayne Gandy

LG 66 Alan Faneca

C 63 Dermontti Dawson

RG 65 Rich Tylski

RT 77 Marvel Smith

TE 87 Mark Bruener

HB 36 Jerome Bettis

QB 11 Kent Graham

FB 38 Jon Witman

FL 81 Troy Edwards

Ravens defense

DE 90 Rob Burnett

DT 95 Sam Adams

DT 98 Tony Siragusa

DE 99 Michael McCrary

LLB 51 Cornell Brown

MLB 52 Ray Lewis

RLB 55 Jamie Sharper

LCB 22 Duane Starks

RCB 21 Chris McAlister

SS 20 Kim Herring

FS 26 Rod Woodsong

Pivotal factors

Eliminate Jerome Bettis' running lanes and force the Steelers to throw. Turnovers are certain to follow.

Protect QB Tony Banks. A tendency to fumble makes the blitz a dangerous play for the Ravens. This is where RG Mike Flynn shows he's the man or that the Ravens need help.

The element of surprise should be big. The Steelers haven't revealed how they'll use Stewart. The Ravens haven't shown a lot of their offense in the preseason. One team will gain the upper hand in the guessing game.

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