Cowher is confident Brown will put his best foot forward

Kicker's performance could be crucial

Ravens' special teams vs. Steelers' special teams

Pro Football

January 19, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The outlook of Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher may be based more on hope than on fact.

Cowher insists he is confident in kicker Kris Brown, who has struggled much of the season. Brown has missed at least one field-goal attempt in nine of the Steelers' 16 games, including four misses in a home loss Nov. 4 to the Ravens.

Brown converted just five of his past eight field-goal attempts and missed two extra points over the last four games.

Cowher, who had reservations concerning Brown after the kicker missed two field-goal attempts against the New York Jets Dec. 9, is now optimistic that his kicker can hold his own in a duel with the Ravens' Matt Stover.

"Where [Brown] is at right now, I think he is feeling good about himself," Cowher said. "So hopefully that will go right into the game. I have a lot of confidence in him."

Brown converted 30 of 44 field-goal attempts this season, finishing with the lowest percentage of his three-year career (67.4).

Stover, meanwhile, made 30 of 35 field-goal attempts, and two of three in last week's playoff game at Miami.

In what is expected to be a low-scoring, defensive battle, special teams could turn the game. Besides kicking, the Ravens also seem to have an advantage in kickoff and punt returns with Jermaine Lewis.

Lewis is second in the AFC, averaging 24.7 yards a kickoff, while Pittsburgh's Troy Edwards is fifth (23.1 yards). Lewis is third in punt-return average (12.4), while the Steelers' Hank Poteat's 8.1 yards ranks him 10th.

All of the punting problems surrounding the Ravens heading into last week's game with new snapper Dale Hellestrae have subsided, and Kyle Richardson looked as though he has returned to form. Richardson averaged 45.5 yards a punt against Miami and pinned the Dolphins inside the 20 once.

The Steelers' Josh Miller was seventh in the AFC in punting, averaging 42.5 yards and has been solid all year.

It is the other kicker, though, who has to have Pittsburgh followers concerned. Brown missed a 35-yard attempt in the first Ravens-Steelers game with 14 seconds left that would have tied it up, though he came back to make two of three in the rematch.

All that is history, and if Brown is put in the same situation as he was in the first game, Cowher is expecting a different outcome.

"I think he will come through," he said.

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