Heap connects with McNair

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Tight end produces big numbers, thanks to chemistry with QB

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 27 Steelers 0

November 27, 2006|By EDWARD LEE

The cut on the bridge of Todd Heap's nose was symbolic of the pain he inflicted on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The rugged tight end caught seven passes for 58 yards and scored the Ravens' first touchdown to help propel the AFC North leaders to a 27-0 shutout victory over the visiting Steelers.

Heap, who is the team's leading receiver with 51 catches for 535 yards, is tied with running back Jamal Lewis with six touchdowns apiece. Much of that can be traced to his developing chemistry with quarterback Steve McNair.

"We're improving; we're getting better every week," Heap said of his on-field connection with McNair. "It's something that I think all of us - the tight ends and wide receivers - have room for improvement as far as our chemistry together. ... Having Steve out there, he makes things happen. He makes plays with his eyes and his feet."

Heap's success isn't exactly new, since the sixth-year veteran led the Ravens in receptions in 2002 and 2003, which earned him Pro Bowl honors in both years.

This season, he is second among NFL tight ends in receptions (only the Cleveland Browns' Kellen Winslow has more with 66), and his touchdown catch yesterday showcased his abilities in the passing game.

With the Ravens positioned at Pittsburgh's 20-yard line on second-and-six on the offense's first series of the game, McNair took the snap and pumped his right arm. Using a stutter step, Heap faked cornerback Deshea Townsend into jumping an out route, then turned upfield.

Heap was wide-open and simply pulled in McNair's pass for the score and a 7-0 lead.

"Good play call, good throw by Steve," Heap said. "Everything fell into place on that one."

Heap's touchdown was the first time the Ravens had taken the game's first lead in three weeks and helped set the tempo for the Ravens' defense, according to linebacker Ray Lewis.

"We came out and put seven points on the board and then put up 14 points," he said. "Any time we do that, you know what time it is for us. We get to pin our ears back and we get to have fun. All around, collectively, I think we had a great showing."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

'LAYUP' BY SCOTT

Ravens linebacker Bart Scott called his sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter a "LeBron James." Why?

"An easy layup," Scott said of his sack, which he applied unimpeded off the defensive line's left side. "[Linebacker] Adalius [Thomas] did a great job of drawing the tackle. All I had to do was make the layup. He pumped the ball, and it was perfect. If he hadn't pumped the ball, I would've been short."

Scott, who finished with four tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, an interception and a quarterback hit, drilled Roethlisberger, who had his eyes downfield and did not see Scott.

Roethlisberger was injured on the play and even though he returned, he could be seen ducking his head after releasing a pass.

"Yeah, that made him gun-shy," Scott said. "He took a tough hit that set the tone on him. He left for a couple of plays, and I'm sure he was thinking about that for the rest of the game. He started getting the ball off quick and sailing some of them high."

Said Roethlisberger, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 214 yards but was sacked nine times and picked off twice: "That's probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life. ... I didn't see the guy coming."

GAMEBALL

Tradition dictates that when the Ravens' defense posts a shutout, the defensive coaching staff gets a game ball. But the coaches did not get one after the team blanked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan made it known that while the defensive coaches overlooked the first omission, they won't be as forgiving after yesterday's victory over the Steelers.

"I got on [coach] Brian [Billick] because we shut out Tampa and never got our game balls," Ryan said. "So we want this one, too. But really, the assistant coaches - Jeff FitzGerald, Clarence Brooks and Dennis Thurman - all the guys did a great job."

R. LEWIS' RETURN

In his first game in three weeks, linebacker Ray Lewis tied teammate Terrell Suggs by recording a team-high six tackles and a sack of Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.

Lewis, who played for the first time since bruising his back in a collision with free safety Ed Reed during the Ravens' 26-20 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5, said he had been itching to play.

"I was like, `I have to get back on the field because you are having too much fun without me,' " Lewis said. "That's my thing: to come back and put it all in order and make sure that we started fast."

While Lewis played, right guard Keydrick Vincent and tight end Daniel Wilcox did not. Vincent missed his second straight game since tweaking his groin, and Wilcox sat out after pulling his right hamstring in last week's victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Rookie Chris Chester made his second consecutive start in place of Vincent. RETURN PENALTIES

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