Scouting Report

the pick Ravens, 17-12

December 14, 2008|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense: : The running back-by-committee will be narrowed to Le'Ron McClain and Willis McGahee because Ray Rice (bruised leg) is doubtful. McClain, who has led the team in rushing three straight weeks (averaging 78.3 yards), gained 63 yards and scored a touchdown at Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers lead the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed (73.0 per game). But Pittsburgh hasn't been as dominant recently, giving up 88 yards to Dallas' Tashard Choice and 73 to New England's Kevin Faulk. Travis Kirschke will start at right defensive end for Brett Keisel (knee). Edge: EVEN:

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense: : In the last meeting, the Steelers sacked Joe Flacco five times, a season worst for the Ravens, but he hasn't gone down in six quarters, a streak of 39 pass attempts. The protection has allowed him to throw a touchdown pass of at least 28 yards in six of his past seven games. Pittsburgh's James Harrison, third in the NFL with 15 sacks, has six sacks in his past three meetings with the Ravens. Pittsburgh has made multiple interceptions in three of its past four games. S Troy Polamalu has picked off a pass in four straight games. Edge: STEELERS:

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense: : RB Willie Parker said the team has gotten away from "Steelers football" and has given up on the run too quickly. He leads the Steelers with 597 rushing yards but has missed five games with knee and shoulder injuries after a fast start. The ground game is 23rd in the NFL (1,350 yards), which would be the team's second-lowest ranking since it joined the AFC in 1970. The Ravens, who have the league's third-best run defense, haven't allowed a touchdown on the ground in six home games. Against the Ravens in Week 4, Pittsburgh was held to 69 rushing yards on 28 carries (a 2.5-yard average). Edge: RAVENS:

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: : In his past two games against the Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdown passes and one interception (a 129.2 quarterback rating). In the past three meetings, the Steelers have thrown four touchdown passes of at least 30 yards. Although Hines Ward has drawn most of the attention, Santonio Holmes has been the more dangerous receiver, averaging 78 receiving yards and scoring four touchdowns in five meetings with the Ravens. S Ed Reed has five interceptions in six home games, including four in his past two. In the past three games, the Ravens have made seven interceptions and allowed one passing touchdown. Edge: EVEN:

Special teams: : The Ravens' return game, which has struggled all season, faces the NFL's top-ranked kickoff-coverage team and the second-ranked punt-coverage squad. The Ravens' Matt Stover has made 14 of his past 16 field-goal attempts, but he has missed a majority of practice with an ankle injury. The Steelers' Jeff Reed has made 11 of 12 field-goal tries on the road this season. Ravens P Sam Koch ranks fourth in the NFL in net average (40.1 yards); Pittsburgh's Mitch Berger is 21st (37.4). Edge: STEELERS:

Intangibles: : There's more on the line for the Ravens, who would hand the AFC North to the Steelers with a loss. Pittsburgh could still win the division even if it loses today. The Ravens have beaten the Steelers five straight in Baltimore and have the second-best home record (51-19) the past nine years. Since 2004, the Steelers are 16-5 in December; two of those losses were to the Ravens. Edge: RAVENS:

Prediction: : The Steelers' defense is better statistically, but the Ravens' is the hottest in the league. This will be the Ravens' statement game, which will put them in prime position to make the playoffs. RAVENS, 17-12.:

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