Scouting report

December 30, 2007|By Jamison Hensley

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense

With Willis McGahee out with two fractured ribs, Musa Smith will make his first NFL start. The former third-round draft pick is averaging 3.4 yards a carry this season. Smith has never had more than seven carries in a regular-season game. The Steelers rank third in the NFL in run defense, giving up 83.9 yards on the ground. But Pittsburgh has looked more vulnerable lately, allowing 147 yards to Fred Taylor on Dec. 16 and 85 yards to Steven Jackson last week. Inside linebacker James Farrior, the Steelers' leading tackler, has fewer than four tackles in two of his past three games. Edge: Steelers

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense

Quarterback Troy Smith will make his second NFL start against a defense that traditionally roughs up rookies. Wide receiver Derrick Mason is third in the NFL with 97 catches, but his 67.7 yards per game rank 27th in the league. With the Ravens' top three tight ends injured, they might have to start Lee Vickers, a converted defensive end. In the last meeting against his former team, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison had 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Pittsburgh has struggled with its pass rush recently, failing to record more than one sack in four straight games. Strong safety Troy Polamalu has a swollen knee and might be held out for precautionary reasons. Edge: Steelers

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

The Steelers will be without running back Willie Parker (broken fibula), but the Ravens will likely be missing middle linebacker Ray Lewis (back, dislocated finger). Without Lewis, the Ravens seem to lose their direction on defense. Even the Seattle Seahawks, who have one of the worst rushing offenses, gained 144 yards on the ground last Sunday (a season worst for the Ravens). When Parker went down Dec. 20, Najeh Davenport took over and gained 123 yards, only his second 100-yard performance in 66 career games. Edge: Even

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

With Ben Roethlisberger nursing a sprained ankle, quarterback Charlie Batch could make his first start since the 2006 season opener. This season, Batch has completed one of five passes for 14 yards (quarterback rating of zero). Eight weeks ago, Roethlisberger exposed a banged-up secondary with five touchdowns on 13 completions. The Ravens again will be without their top two cornerbacks, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, who are both on injured reserve. In the five games they have played without them, the Ravens have given up 12 passing touchdowns. In the last meeting, receiver Santonio Holmes had four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Edge: Steelers

Special teams

The Ravens rank in the top 10 in punt and kickoff returns, while the Steelers have the third-worst punt return team. Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed is the most accurate kicker in the NFL this season (92 percent). Ravens kicker Matt Stover hasn't had a field-goal attempt in six of his past nine games. Edge: Even

Intangibles

The Ravens have beaten Pittsburgh four straight times in Baltimore, but this Ravens team has lost four straight at home. For the Steelers to take the AFC's No. 3 seed, they need to beat the Ravens and the San Diego Chargers must lose to the Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh could rest some of its starters, but the Ravens likely will be without seven injured ones (McGahee, Lewis, McAlister, Rolle, tight end Todd Heap, quarterback Steve McNair and defensive end Trevor Pryce). Edge: Steelers

Prediction

After the beating the Ravens administered to the Steelers here last season, this is the time for payback. How else would you think this disastrous season would end? Steelers, 30-3

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.