T. Smith: Bring on 3-4

Rookie feels prepared for Steelers' defensive scheme

Ravens Notebook

December 28, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Troy Smith isn't too worried.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and rookie quarterback will lead the Ravens' offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and one of his tasks will be solving Pittsburgh's top-ranked 3-4 defense.

"I think through the course of the week when you go about learning what exactly a 3-4 is, and the different problems that it can bring, you learn how to counteract that, and that's what the staff does," Smith said. "They come up with incredible game plans. And I kind of have an easy job, and that is to go out and execute."

Executing against the Steelers has been tough on opponents. The defense has surrendered just 261.9 yards per contest, 228 first downs this season (15.2 per game) and 5.7 net yards per passing play - all of which are league bests.

Pittsburgh's success is built on its defensive front, where the three linemen tie up the offensive line and the four linebackers are free to penetrate the backfield.

On passing downs, any number of linebackers can blitz, and down linemen can drop back into coverage. The scheme's unpredictability masks where the blitz is coming from and creates confusion for opposing offenses.

But Smith might benefit from practicing against the Ravens' defense, which also employs a 3-4 alignment and disguises its pass rush.

"Honestly, Pittsburgh throws so much at you, but I think because we play our defense in practice, we've seen just about anything a defense can throw at you," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "Troy has to reflect on those things that our defense has thrown at him in practice and then watch film and see what Pittsburgh likes to do and capitalize on some of the things they do, some of the places they might leave themselves vulnerable."

Not thinking `goodbye'

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, linebacker Terrell Suggs said he hopes Sunday's game is not his last in a Ravens uniform.

"I pray to God, I hope not," he said. "I think our front office is amazing. They do a good job of signing the guys that they want to be here. I think we'll get a deal done."

Injury update

Although linebacker Ray Lewis missed his fifth consecutive practice since dislocating a finger on his left hand against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 16, coach Brian Billick still held out hope Lewis would be able to play against Pittsburgh.

"Ray hasn't been going, but we've done that before," Billick said, adding that Nick Greisen would make his second consecutive start if Lewis can't go. "We'll see what Sunday brings."

Tight ends Todd Heap (strained hamstring) and Quinn Sypniewski (concussion), running back Willis McGahee (cracked ribs), quarterback Kyle Boller (concussion) and safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) also did not practice for the second straight day.

Wide receiver Mark Clayton (back) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (thigh) were limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday.

End zone

Billick said he would likely watch the New England Patriots pursue a perfect 16-0 season when they play the New York Giants tomorrow night. "This is special," he said, noting that such a feat hasn't been achieved since the 1972 Dolphins went 14-0. "That's a long time. A lot of these guys weren't alive when that Dolphin team did what it did. I don't know that they have the context for it. And it's unprecedented what the networks are doing, right? Isn't that going to be simulcast? That tells you right there that it's going to be pretty significant." ... Wide receiver Devard Darling missed practice Wednesday to be with his wife as they welcomed the birth of their son Devard Darling Jr., who will be called D.J. ... Guard Ikechuku Ndukwe was signed off the Ravens' practice squad by the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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