At STEELERS (13-3)

RAVENS (11-6)

12:30 p.m. today, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, chs. 13, 9

Ravens / Steelers - Afc Divisional Playoff

January 20, 2002


Ravens rushing vs. Steelers run defense - STEELERS

The Ravens have the hottest rushing attack in the league, racking up 438 yards on the ground the past two weeks. The running back by committee of Terry Allen, Jason Brookins and Moe Williams isn't ideal, but it is the main reason the Ravens have dominated time of possession recently. With the top-ranked rush defense, Pittsburgh will be tougher to run up the middle against than the Miami Dolphins because of rookie nose tackle Casey Hampton, who does an outstanding job clogging the center of the line.

Key matchup: Ravens left guard Edwin Mulitalo vs. Steelers inside linebacker Kendrell Bell. Mulitalo excels in run blocking, and the Ravens can have a dominant left side if he has recovered from a hamstring strain. Bell is a dynamic and quick rookie who leads Pittsburgh with 15 1/2 tackles for losses.

Stat to remember: 66 percent. Time the Ravens have run the ball on 140 plays over the past two games.

Ravens passing vs. Steelers pass defense - STEELERS

The key is whether Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac will have time to throw. Pittsburgh uses its 3-4 defense to come from all angles with stunts and blitzes. If Grbac gets hit early, it'll be interesting to see if he loses his composure. The Ravens will test the Steelers deep, but cornerbacks Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott have taken the long ball away in the past three meetings. The Ravens' most consistent receiver, tight end Shannon Sharpe, needs to find ways to get open against Pittsburgh's agile linebackers.

Key matchup: Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden vs. Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter. Ogden has had a subpar season based on his standards and has the important job of protecting Grbac's blind side. Porter had two sacks in the first meeting with the Ravens but was shut out in the Dec. 16 game.

Stat to remember: 64. Consecutive passes thrown by Grbac without an interception.

Steelers rushing vs. Ravens run defense - RAVENS

The return of Jerome Bettis gives a lift to Pittsburgh's top-ranked rushing attack, but the Ravens are more concerned with backup Amos Zereoue. His shifty, darting style was effective against the Ravens a month ago, and Bettis will be hard-pressed to come back in full gear after missing four games. The Steelers are averaging 4.8 yards per carry and have scored 17 rushing TDs. The Ravens are pursuing like the defense of old, shutting down the Dolphins' running game last Sunday. In five playoff games, the Ravens have allowed an average of 60.8 rushing yards.

Key matchup: Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis vs. Bettis. Don't think Lewis hasn't forgotten that Bettis compared him to Cincinnati's Takeo Spikes.

Stat to remember: 158. Rushing yards produced by Pittsburgh in its last meeting with the Ravens. It's the most gained against the Ravens in three years.

Steelers passing vs. Ravens pass defense - STEELERS

The X-factor for the game is quarterback Kordell Stewart. Despite the Ravens' ability to pressure him, Stewart has hurt them by releasing the ball just before the sack comes or by scrambling to buy time for his receivers. The Ravens are banking that Stewart cannot repeat his performance from last month, when he torched the Ravens for 333 yards passing. Ravens cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister have to eliminate big plays and finish their opportunities against Stewart, who has slumped with six interceptions in his past two games. No team has converted more than three third-down plays against the Ravens over their past four games.

Key matchup: Ravens secondary vs. Stewart. In his two games against the Ravens this season, Stewart has completed 42 of 68 passes (62 percent) for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Ravens have to find a way to break that rhythm.

Stat to remember: 0. TD passes allowed by the Ravens' defense in five playoff games.

Special teams - RAVENS

Except for punter Josh Miller, Pittsburgh's special teams have been the team's weak link. The Steelers' kickoff- and punt-return teams rank near the bottom of the league, and their coverage units have been inconsistent. This is the sort of game that could be changed by Ravens return specialist Jermaine Lewis, who hurt the Steelers with a 53-yard kickoff return in the first meeting and a 63-yard punt return in the second game. If it's close, the Ravens have a decided advantage with Matt Stover, who is 26-for-27 on field-goal attempts under 40 yards.

Key matchup: Ravens' special teams vs. Steelers kicker Kris Brown. Doesn't it seem like Brown is related somehow to Al Del Greco?

Stat to remember: 5. Field goals missed by Brown in two games against the Ravens this season.

Intangibles - RAVENS

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