Scouting Report

Ravens Vs. Steelers

Ravens Gameday

October 31, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

For the first time this season, coach Brian Billick didn't dismiss the possibility of increasing the carries of Chester Taylor, who has outplayed Jamal Lewis this season. Lewis has failed to crack 100 yards in six games and will be hard-pressed to do so against the Steelers. In seven starts against Pittsburgh, Lewis has gained more than 93 yards once and has been held under 70 yards four times. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 straight games. Handling nose tackle Casey Hampton is a stiff challenge for Ravens center Mike Flynn. Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, who has a pinched nerve in his left shoulder, could split time with veteran backup Travis Kirschke.

Edge -- Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

There always has been talk that Pittsburgh is susceptible to the pass. In the past three games, the Steelers haven't allowed more than 213 yards passing, intercepting four throws while allowing two touchdown passes. Pittsburgh ranks 18th in pass defense, but its 20 sacks are tied for sixth in the league. Quarterback Anthony Wright could be making one of his last starts because Kyle Boller has returned to practice in his recovery from a toe injury. Wright has a respectable completion rate (62.5 percent) but that's misleading because he hasn't been very accurate on his throws. The Ravens have converted only 35.2 percent of their third downs, which is 13th worst in the NFL.

Edge -- Steelers

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

The Ravens rank ninth against the run, but they won't be the same without Ray Lewis (hamstring). Replacing Lewis at middle linebacker will be Tommy Polley, who has good range but lacks a physical presence. Bart Scott will make his first career start at Polley's outside linebacker spot. Shuffling the lineup will be a challenge for the Ravens, especially after allowing their first 100-yard rusher of the season (Chicago's Thomas Jones). Pittsburgh relies heavily on the run, averaging 34.2 attempts a game. The Steelers can come with speed with running back Willie Parker (539 yards) or power with Jerome Bettis (114). The Steelers' talented offensive line represents the biggest challenge of the season for the Ravens' defensive front. Teams also have been running wide left at cornerback Samari Rolle, who is the team's weakest tackler.

Edge -- Steelers

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

The Ravens have the best pass defense in the NFL, ranking first in yards per game (152.8), completion rate (51.9) and yards per attempt (5.4). But they haven't made any momentum-changing plays despite having Rolle and Chris McAlister at cornerback. The team's three interceptions are tied for the fifth lowest in the NFL. Safety Ed Reed (ankle) will miss his second career game and will be replaced again by Chad Williams. The Steelers don't pass much but they take advantage of sucking in the defense with play-action fakes and throwing over the top. Second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL in passer rating (120.7) and yards per attempt (10.0), which is nearly 2 yards more than the next highest (Drew Bledsoe's 8.2-yard average, entering Week 8). McAlister's battle with receiver Hines Ward is always a heated one.

Edge -- Even

Special teams

This is a matchup of two of the NFL's best punt returners. The Ravens' B.J. Sams is third with an 11.6-yard average, and the Steelers' Antwaan Randle El is fifth with a 9.6-yard average. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has connected on nine straight field-goal attempts, but Heinz Field is a treacherous place. Opposing kickers have made just 37 of 55 attempts (67 percent). Steelers kicker Jeff Reed has converted 40 of 49 at home (82 percent). The Ravens' Dave Zastudil is averaging a career-best 43.6 yards per punt.

Edge -- Even

Intangibles

The Ravens have lost in their past four trips to Heinz Field and have lost their past six overall on the road. Under coach Bill Cowher, the Steelers are 10-0 at home on Monday Night Football. The Ravens are 4-1 on Monday night under Billick. Penalties have become a concern for both teams. The Ravens have committed double-digit penalties in their past three games. In Pittsburgh's last game, the Steelers were called for unnecessary roughness twice and taunting once.

Edge -- Steelers

Prediction

The Ravens feel like no one is giving them a shot at beating the Steelers, and rightfully so. The Ravens have lost their two defensive leaders. They have failed to score with any consistency. And they have yet to show any confidence on the road. This one could be ugly.

Steelers -- 27-10

Tonight, 9--Heinz Field, Pittsburgh-- Chs. 2, 7--Line: Steelers by 11 1/2 -- Records: Ravens 2-4, Steelers 4-2

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.