Steelers At Ravens

Today, 1 P.m., Ravens Stadium, Ch. 13

October 27, 2002|By Jamison Hensley

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense -- EVEN

Over the past four weeks, Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has gained at least 75 yards for the league's 18th-ranked running attack. Lewis' biggest problem has been holding onto the ball, fumbling three times in four games. The offensive line will be bolstered by the return of right tackle Ethan Brooks (back spasms), which allows Edwin Mulitalo to move back to left guard. The Steelers, who have the sixth-best run defense, have been unpredictable. After giving up 100 yards to Cleveland's Jamel White and New Orleans' Deuce McAllister, Pittsburgh has held Cincinnati's Corey Dillon and Indianapolis' Edgerrin James under 63 yards.

Key stat: 87.3. Average rushing yards allowed by the Steelers in three road games.

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense -- STEELERS

The Ravens have the second-worst passing game in the NFL, but this lack of productivity hasn't hurt them because quarterback Chris Redman continues to play intelligently. He hasn't thrown an interception in his past 39 attempts, but his status for today's game is questionable because he reported to yesterday's walkthrough with a stiff lower back and did not practice. Veteran Jeff Blake is the backup. The Steelers' secondary has settled down after giving up 697 yards passing and four touchdowns in its first two games. The league's 25th-ranked pass defense has allowed just one quarterback to throw for more than 222 yards in its past four games. Pittsburgh rattles offenses with its pass rush, averaging 11 quarterback hits or pressures each game.

Key stat: 20. Games since Ravens' last 300-yard passing performance, the NFL's third-longest drought.

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- STEELERS

Running back Jerome Bettis is out with a knee sprain, but the Ravens don't catch a break with backup Amos Zereoue. The four-year veteran excels at breaking to the outside, where the Ravens had trouble containing Jacksonville's Fred Taylor last week. Pittsburgh could miss center Jeff Hartings, who is out with a knee injury, more than Bettis. The Steelers' 11th-ranked ground game goes against the Ravens' 13th-ranked run defense, which could be without inside injured linebacker Ray Lewis for the third straight game. Bernardo Harris would replace Lewis. The Ravens, who are giving up 4 yards per carry, need faster pursuit to the perimeter.

Key stat: 5. Rushing touchdowns by the Steelers in their past three games.

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- STEELERS

The Steelers have hit their stride with the more accurate, less mobile Tommy Maddox at quarterback. With the 16th-ranked passing attack, Pittsburgh has scored at least 28 points in each of Maddox's three starts after scoring only 37 points in three games with Kordell Stewart. Maddox's favorite target has been Plaxico Burress, connecting with the third-year receiver 21 times for 330 yards. The Ravens have the fifth-worst pass defense and have surrendered an average of 310 yards passing since coming off the bye. Still, the Ravens are dangerous to throw against, picking off 11 passes in their past four games.

Key stat: 12. Ravens' sacks over the past four games. It's an average of one sack every 17 pass plays.

Special teams -- EVEN

The past three regular-season meetings have been decided by five points or fewer, which means the kicking game could be a factor. The Ravens' Matt Stover is 9-for-11 on field goals and hasn't missed inside the 40. With J.R. Jenkins injured, Stover will handle kickoff duties again after getting just one inside the 10-yard line last week. Pittsburgh's Todd Peterson has struggled in place of the departed Kris Brown, connecting on six of 10 field goals, and hasn't gotten much distance on his kickoffs. The Steelers don't have much speed on special teams.

Key stat: 15. Punts inside the 20-yard line by the Ravens' Dave Zastudil on 36 kicks.

Intangibles -- STEELERS

The Ravens have won 18 of their past 23 home games (including playoffs), with two of those five losses coming against the Steelers. In fact, Pittsburgh has beaten the Ravens in its past five visits to Baltimore. The Steelers have won 13 of their past 14 games in October. But Pittsburgh is coming off a short week, having an away game after playing on Monday Night Football.

Prediction -- STEELERS

The Ravens are playing over their heads. The Steelers are finally playing to expectations. It won't be easy, but the Steelers will win, 27-20.

BREAK DOWN

Records

Steelers 3-3 Ravens 3-3

Line

Steelers by 2

Vs. spread

Steelers 3-3 Ravens 4-2

Series

Steelers lead 8-4

Last meeting

Steelers won, 26-21, on Dec. 16, 2001, in Baltimore.

NFL rankings

Steelers offense: Rush (11), pass (16), overall (14)

Steelers defense: Rush (6), pass (25T), overall (16)

Ravens offense: Rush (18), pass (31), overall (30)

Ravens defense: Rush (13), pass (28), overall (24)

Quick hits

Steelers have won in their past five visits to Baltimore.

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