Scouting report

Ravens vs. Steelers

November 20, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

The only time Jamal Lewis ran hard this season was three weeks ago in Pittsburgh, where he was still held to 61 yards (which is about his career average against the Steelers). Other than that game, it has been a weekly repeat: Lewis heading into the line for little to no gain. The offensive line will undergo its first change this season, with right guard Brian Rimpf and right tackle Tony Pashos expected to make their first career starts because of injuries. Inside linebacker James Farrior, the Steelers' second-leading tackler who missed last Sunday's game, is doubtful with a knee injury. The Steelers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since the fourth game of last season.

Edge -- Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

With the NFL's 20th-ranked pass defense, the Steelers have allowed teams to convert 44.1 percent of their third downs, the league's second-worst efficiency rate. But the Ravens converted only four of 14 third downs last Sunday and none longer than third-and-five. The Steelers, whose 25 sacks rank seventh in the NFL, likely will try to use the same blitzes as Jacksonville, which sacked Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller four times last Sunday and harassed him numerous times. In seven quarters this season, Boller has thrown no touchdowns and four interceptions. Because the Ravens rarely stretch the field, their yards-per-attempt average (5.76) is third lowest in the league.

Edge -- Steelers

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Remember when running backs feared going against the Ravens? After holding the Steelers to a respectable 3.6 yards a carry on Oct. 31, the Ravens have given up 97 yards to Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson and 106 to Jacksonville backup Greg Jones. Maybe it shows how much the Ravens are truly missing linebacker Ray Lewis, who will sit out his fourth game with a strained hamstring. Pittsburgh, which calls the highest percentage of rushing plays in the NFL (.587), will try to establish the ground game earlier than the last time against the Ravens. Over the past two weeks, the Steelers have outrushed their opponents, 313-126. Running back Willie Parker is expected to start after missing last Sunday's game with a sprained ankle.

Edge -- Steelers

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

With injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch, Tommy Maddox will become Pittsburgh's third starter in a month. Maddox was dropped to No. 3 five weeks ago after throwing three interceptions and fumbling once in a loss to Jacksonville. Receiver Antwaan Randle El, who played quarterback in college, might be asked to serve as the backup if Roethlisberger is unable to play. A decision has not yet been made about left tackle Marvel Smith, who is doubtful because of a sore ankle. The Ravens have shown some cracks the past two weeks but they are still ranked No. 6 against the pass. The problem has been a lack of sacks (two in the past seven quarters) and interceptions (none in the past 73 passes). Maybe this time safety Will Demps will keep track of tight end Heath Miller, who had two touchdown catches in the last meeting.

Edge -- Ravens

Special teams

The Ravens' B.J. Sams leads the NFL in punt returns with a 12-yard average, 1 yard better than anyone else in the league. The only drawback has been his inability to score a touchdown, which the Ravens desperately need against Pittsburgh's 24th-ranked punt coverage team. In the last meeting, the Ravens gave up a 59-yard kickoff return to the Steelers. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has the third-best field-goal percentage in division games (.904) since 1999. The Steelers' Jeff Reed has missed two of his past four attempts.

Edge -- Ravens

Intangibles

There seems to be no end to the frustration for the Ravens, who have lost 11 of their past 15 games. Now, their home stadium is expected to be taken over by Pittsburgh fans. The Steelers' heated rivalry with the Ravens won't allow them to look ahead to games against Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has won 11 in a row on the road, the best such streak since 1990. The Ravens have their own streak: 11 quarters without a touchdown.

Edge -- Steelers

Prediction

The Ravens have hurt the Steelers' starting quarterback in each of the past three meetings. But Pittsburgh could play Maddox, Randle El or even Bubby Brister at quarterback and still win against this offensively challenged team. The Ravens haven't scored a touchdown since Halloween night. Now that's some gruesome game-planning.

Steelers -- 20-13

Ravens offense

WR 89 Mark Clayton

LT 75 Jonathan Ogden

LG 64 Edwin Mulitalo

C 62 Mike Flynn

RG 69 Brian Rimpf

RT 79 Tony Pashos

TE 86 Todd Heap

WR 85 Derrick Mason

QB 7 Kyle Boller

FB 33 Justin Green

RB 31 Jamal Lewis

Steelers defense

LE 91 Aaron Smith

NT 98 Casey Hampton

RE 67 Kimo von Oelhoffen

OLB 53 Clark Haggans

ILB 57 Clint Kriewaldt

ILB 50 Larry Foote

OLB 55 Joey Porter

CB 24 Ike Taylor

CB 26 Deshea Townsend

FS 28 Chris Hope

SS 43 Troy Polamalu

Steelers offense

WR 82 Antwaan Randle El

LT 79 Trai Essex

LG 66 Alan Faneca

C 64 Jeff Hartings

RG 73 Kendall Simmons

RT 78 Max Starks

TE 83 Heath Miller

RB 39 Willie Parker

FB 35 Dan Kreider

QB 8 Tommy Maddox

WR 86 Hines Ward

Ravens defense

LE 98 Tony Weaver

LT 97 Kelly Gregg

RT 92 Maake Kemoeatu

RE 55 Terrell Suggs

OLB 96 Adalius Thomas

MLB 50 Tommy Polley

OLB 57 Bart Scott

CB 21 Chris McAlister

CB 22 Samari Rolle

SS 49 Chad Williams

FS 47 Will Demps

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