Scouting Report

the pick steelers, 23-13

January 18, 2009|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense: : The Ravens have been able to run with mild success against Pittsburgh, which had the NFL's second-ranked rushing defense in the regular season. In the first meeting at Pittsburgh, the Ravens totaled 103 rushing yards. In the second one, Le'Ron McClain rushed for 87 yards. Those are surprising numbers against the Steelers, who gave up an average of 80.3 yards on the ground. But McClain has been limited in practice with an ankle injury. The Ravens, who averaged 1.7 yards a carry at Tennessee in their 13-10 divisional round win, might have to rely on Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. Edge: Even:

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense: : With their unpredictable blitzes, the Steelers are one of the few teams that have continually confused Joe Flacco in his rookie season. In two meetings against Pittsburgh, Flacco has completed 45.8 percent of his passes, throwing for one touchdown and two interceptions. His quarterback rating is 53.4 (his rating against the rest of the NFL during the regular season was 84.5). WRs Derrick Mason (knee) and Mark Clayton (thigh) missed a majority of practices last week. Steelers S Troy Polamalu, who has been limited with a calf injury, leads the team with seven interceptions. LBs James Harrison (the NFL Defensive Player of the Year) and LaMarr Woodley combined for 27 1/2 sacks in the regular season, setting a Steelers record for sacks by two players. Edge: Steelers:

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense:: The Ravens have always dominated Steelers RB Willie Parker. In six career games against the Ravens, Parker has averaged 43.7 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry. He has not scored a touchdown against the Ravens. But there's a concern because the Ravens looked sloppy tackling in their most recent game at Tennessee. It could be trouble if Parker reaches the outside because the Ravens' cornerbacks struggle at bringing down running backs. The Steelers are 7-0 (including their playoff victory) this season when Parker gains at least 70 yards. Edge: Even:

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: : Ben Roethlisberger is one of the few quarterbacks to throw successfully against the Ravens, especially late in games. In eight meetings with the Ravens, he has completed 58.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His quarterback rating against the Ravens is 84.9. WR Santonio Holmes has done most of the damage against the Ravens' secondary. In his past four games against the Ravens, Holmes has averaged 72.5 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns. Steelers C Justin Hartwig (knee) was limited in practice last week. The status of Terrell Suggs (shoulder), the Ravens' top pass rusher, is a game-time decision. CB Samari Rolle (groin) is doubtful and would be replaced by Frank Walker. Edge: Steelers:

Special teams: : The Ravens' Matt Stover is on a hot streak, making 19 of his past 20 field-goal attempts (including the game-winning 43-yarder at Tennessee). The Steelers' Jeff Reed has made 14 of 16 field-goal tries (87.5 percent) at Heinz Field this season. Ravens P Sam Koch pins teams deeper than Pittsburgh's Mitch Berger. But Holmes is more explosive on punt returns than the Ravens' Jim Leonhard. Edge: Even:

Intangibles:: Playing 17 straight weeks is starting to show for the Ravens. Nearly half of their starting lineup is injured. The Ravens have always had trouble in Pittsburgh, losing seven of their past eight games there. The Steelers have lost their past three AFC championship games at home, but that was under former coach Bill Cowher. After sweeping the regular-season series, teams are 11-7 (61.1 percent) when facing that same opponent in the playoffs since the 1970 merger. Edge: Steelers:

Prediction:: The Ravens are banged up and playing their third straight road game in the playoffs. They barely escaped a physical battle at Tennessee, but there won't be any such reprieve this time against the more rested Steelers. The odds are just too stacked against the Ravens advancing to another Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Steelers, 23-13.:

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