Ravens set their sights on disrupting Stewart

Steelers quarterback was nearly flawless in previous meeting

Steelers' pass offense vs. Ravens' pass defense


January 17, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Assuming Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart will not duplicate his last masterpiece is not enough.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said the team has to do its part in making sure Stewart does not repeat his near-perfect performance in the teams' previous meeting Dec. 16.

Stewart completed 20 of 31 passes for 333 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions in leading the Steelers to a 26-21 win at PSINet Stadium.

It was the high point of a season in which his name was being mentioned as the possible league Most Valuable Player.

"We've got to do something to disrupt him," Billick said. "We have to put more pressure on him. We have to be more physical with those receivers. We have to do some things to make him pause."

In making his first Pro Bowl this year, Stewart set a career high with 3,109 passing yards and a team-record 60.2 completion percentage. He has revived a dormant Pittsburgh passing attack into one that helped carry the offensive load -- with eight passing touchdowns -- when starting running back Jerome Bettis missed the last four games with a strained groin muscle.

Receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress each have more than 1,000 receiving yards, while No. 3 wide-out Bobby Shaw is averaging 17 yards a catch and has emerged as the team's deep threat this year. Shaw had a memorable 90-yard touchdown reception in the Ravens-Steelers game on Dec. 16 that put Pittsburgh up 19-7.

Since then, though, the Ravens have rebounded.

The team is coming off one of its most dominant defensive showings of the season, holding Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler to 15 of 28 passing for just 122 yards and an interception.

Fiedler looked confused and was off-target through much of the game, thanks in part to a pass rush that netted three sacks and a number of hurries.

In the past four games, quarterbacks have not thrown for more than 153 yards, and twice been held under 100 yards.

But the Ravens are now facing a receiving corps that gave them problems this season. Burress and Shaw both went over 100 yards in the previous meeting, and Ward had nine catches for 97 yards in the first meeting. The Steelers are 21st passing in the NFL, but with the emergence of Stewart and the receivers, that statistic is deceiving.

"If you let [Stewart] get into a rhythm and get comfortable," said Billick, "it could be a long day for us."

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