Absence of Bettis no factor, team says

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens believe Steelers won't miss a beat with Zereoue and Ma'afala

October 24, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday officially ruled running back Jerome Bettis out of Sunday's game, which brought a collective shrug from the Ravens.

Bettis' absence means Amos Zereoue likely will start and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala will see an increased workload.

That combination could easily give the Ravens as much of a problem as Bettis, who has not played in the past two games between the teams.

"I don't think much is going to change without Jerome Bettis," said defensive end Tony Weaver. "They have a great crew of running backs with Zereoue and Ma'afala, so I don't think they are going to miss a beat."

Zereoue and Ma'afala combined for 181 yards in the final two games against the Ravens last year.

Zereoue has better speed to the outside than Bettis, who sprained his medial collateral knee ligament Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Fred Taylor of the Jacksonville Jaguars ran for 151 yards, mostly outside the tackles, in the Ravens' 17-10 win Sunday.

"Last week we had some missed assignments, but we'll learn from our mistakes," tackle Maake Kemoeatu said. "We have another good running back coming in here."

The Ravens will not have to worry about outside running from Ma'afala, who at 254 pounds is a slightly smaller version of Bettis.

"They are going to run the same package, do what they do," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Bettis is going to be more downhill, bigger, more physical. Zereoue can do more in terms of bouncing it outside, so you have to hold the edge a little bit better. It alters the game plan a little, but they use both, so you prepare for both anyway.

"It presents a bit of a challenge but it's not something that you're not prepared for or that we haven't seen before."

No Stewart this time

Steelers backup quarterback Kordell Stewart will not get a chance to improve on his 5-0 record in Baltimore.

Stewart lost his job to Tommy Maddox in the third game this season and has not played since. That may be an advantage for the Ravens considering Stewart always seemed to make a game-breaking play whenever the teams played in Baltimore, often with his legs.

"Knowing that Kordell is a scrambler, if his guys are not open, he will pull it down and run," cornerback Gary Baxter said. "That can hurt you. Just knowing that Tommy Maddox is going to be in the pocket and will throw, if we can get some pressure on him, maybe he'll throw us some bad balls and we can get our hands on some."

The Steelers are 2-1 with Maddox as the starter.

"Tommy is not going to run around the way Kordell does, but he brings some things to the party in terms of what they are doing in the passing game," Billick said.

Hawaiian connection

Fuamatu-Ma'afala helped persuade Kemoeatu to attend the University of Utah. Both were all-star high school players in Hawaii.

"He took me on the recruiting trip," Kemoeatu said. "He was always the guy to look up to in high school. Everybody talks about Chris beating people up on the field. Me and him got to be really good friends in Utah when he was getting drafted.

"We practiced together, but nobody could get a good hit on Chris."

New mind-set for Mulitalo

After practicing some at right tackle but mentally preparing himself to play left guard last week, Edwin Mulitalo is taking a different approach this week.

Mulitalo, who played right tackle the entire game against Jacksonville for an injured Ethan Brooks, is psychologically ready to play either position against the Steelers.

"I should have done this all year long," Mulitalo said. "I'm just going to learn both positions, and if my name gets called, I'm prepared. That's how I'm doing this week, I'm preparing as a guard but [with] my peripheral vision, I'm listening to what the tackles have to do."

Taking out the trash talk

Steelers safety Lee Flowers, who is usually never at a loss for words, could not be baited into saying something controversial. Ray Lewis (shoulder) is not sure whether he is playing, so he said he has no right to say anything.

Players from both sides spewed a good amount of trash talk before each of the three meetings last year, but so far, neither team has said much of anything.

"I got a different cast of guys," Billick said. "If Shannon [Sharpe] wants to say something about the game, he's welcome to do it. Rob Burnett, [Tony Siragusa], I'm sure he'll have something to say. They can have at it. And I guess based on where they're coming from as well that Bill [Cowher, Steelers coach] is probably giving them the same message -- `Best ya'll go just play the game because you're sitting there at 3-3.' "

End zone

Defensive end Michael McCrary (knee, doubtful) and Lewis (shoulder, questionable) did not practice. Brooks (back/knee), kicker J.R. Jenkins (leg) and guard Jason Thomas (calf) are all questionable but practiced.

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