RAVENS vs. STEELERS

November 26, 2006|By [JAMISON HENSLEY] | [JAMISON HENSLEY],Sun Reporter

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

Jamal Lewis broke out of a season-long funk last Sunday, gaining 79 yards and scoring three touchdowns in the second half. Whether he is back on track will be determined today against the Steelers. Lewis has struggled more against Pittsburgh than any other division team and has not produced more than 62 yards in his past four games against the Steelers. Rookie second-round pick Chris Chester is expected to make his second career start, replacing injured right guard Keydrick Vincent (groin). Pittsburgh has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Inside linebacker James Farrior leads the Steelers in tackles (80) and stops behind the line of scrimmage (five).

Edge: Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

Since coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling four games ago, quarterback Steve McNair has completed 67 percent of his passes (91-for-135) and has averaged 253 yards passing. He has thrown five touchdown passes and two interceptions during that span, compiling an impressive 95.7 quarterback rating. Mark Clayton, who already has more catches this year than his rookie season, has been the team's hottest receiver. He has caught a team-leading 46 passes, including an AFC-best 20 on third down. In their past three games, the Steelers have given up an average of 283 yards passing. Their pass defense has allowed four touchdowns and forced no interceptions this month.

Edge: Ravens

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned to practice Friday, could play his first game in three weeks. With Lewis in the lineup, the Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. In two games without him, the Ravens have given up 266 yards rushing. The Ravens' front seven respects the Steelers' offensive line, which always seems to make the Ravens step up their level of play. In two meetings last season, the Ravens limited speedy running back Willie Parker to 122 yards on 32 carries. His longest run was 16 yards.

Edge: Ravens

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been unable to manage games as he did during Pittsburgh's Super Bowl run. He has thrown an NFL-worst 17 interceptions, which is nearly double last season's total (nine). Pittsburgh's passing attack could be further limited without Hines Ward, the only Steelers receiver with more than 30 catches. He is questionable with a hyperextended knee. The Ravens lead the league with 18 interceptions and are coming off their first game without one. Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce has four sacks in his past four games, including two last Sunday.

Edge: Ravens

Special teams

The Ravens' B.J. Sams was the key to last Sunday's win with two long punt returns (65 and 59 yards) and a big kickoff return (59). The Steelers are in the bottom half on both coverage teams, ranking 16th on punts and 26th on kickoffs. The Ravens' Matt Stover missed a field-goal attempt for the first time this season last Sunday, but he remains the most accurate kicker in the AFC (94 percent). Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed is 12-for-17 this season, missing two of his past six attempts.

Edge: Ravens

Intangibles

With six losses, the Steelers know one more would essentially end their chances of defending their Super Bowl championship. But the Ravens have been able to beat desperate teams recently, defeating Cincinnati and Atlanta this month. Plus, the Ravens would like nothing better than to deliver the final blow to Pittsburgh. The Steelers no longer own the Ravens in Baltimore as they once did, losing their past three trips here.

Edge: Ravens

Prediction

Turnovers have been critical to both teams all season. The Ravens force them, and the Steelers give them away. That will prove to be the difference today, as the Ravens continue to look more like a Super Bowl team than Pittsburgh.

Ravens, 20-10

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.