Scouting Report

November 29, 2009|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense: Pittsburgh ranks first in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (69.2) and per carry (3.4). In their past seven games, the Steelers haven't permitted a running back to crack 70 yards. Pittsburgh has given up two rushing touchdowns this season. Ray Rice has been consistent during his past seven games, averaging 77.3 rushing yards. Last season as a rookie, Rice had one carry against the Steelers. He was sidelined the last two meetings because of a leg injury. Willis McGahee scored two touchdowns against Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game. Edge: STEELERS

Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense: Joe Flacco struggled more against the Steelers than any other team last season. In his last two meetings against Pittsburgh, Flacco completed 41 percent of his passes and threw five interceptions. Currently, he hasn't thrown a touchdown in three straight games. Wide receiver Derrick Mason has never scored a touchdown against Pittsburgh in 20 career meetings. The Steelers, who rank 13th against the pass, gave up 248 passing yards and two touchdowns to Kansas City's Matt Cassel. Pittsburgh was burned for two passes over 40 yards last Sunday, which doubles its season total. James Harrison leads the Steelers with 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu is out with a sprained left knee. Edge: STEELERS

Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense: The Ravens rank second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per carry (3.5). The Ravens held the Steelers to 70.6 rushing yards per game last season. Only Cincinnati's Cedric Benson has gained more than 74 yards against the Ravens at home this season. Since taking over as the Steelers' starting running back seven games ago, Rashard Mendenhall has averaged 92 rushing yards and has scored four rushing TDs. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (foot) is expected to play. Edge: RAVENS

Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: The Steelers are expected to start former third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who has not recovered from concussion-related symptoms. This is a major break for the Ravens. Dixon, who can scramble to make plays, has thrown one pass in two seasons in the NFL. Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes has scored a touchdown in five straight games against the Ravens. Last Sunday at Kansas City, Hines Ward caught a season-high 10 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. The Ravens' secondary has made four interceptions in the past two games. Cornerback Fabian Washington - who is out for the season - is expected to be replaced by rookie third-round pick Lardarius Webb. Linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs, who had four sacks against Pittsburgh last season, is out for the second straight game with a knee injury. Free safety Ed Reed (foot, illness) hasn't practiced all week and is listed as questionable. Edge: RAVENS

Special teams: The Steelers' kickoff coverage unit has given up four touchdowns, which tied the NFL record set in 1998. And those four TDs have come in the past five games. With Webb as the primary returner, the Ravens have the second-best kickoff-return team. Billy Cundiff was 6-for-7 on field-goal tries in his Ravens debut last week. The Steelers' Jeff Reed has converted 10 straight attempts. Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda ranks 10th with a 39.4-yard net average, and the Ravens' Sam Koch is 13th with a 38.6-yard average. There is a chance that Tom Zbikowski could take over for Chris Carr on punt returns. Edge: RAVENS

Intangibles: The Steelers have won three straight games over the Ravens, but the Ravens have beaten Pittsburgh in five of six meetings in Baltimore. Both have defensive stars who are sidelined (Suggs and Polamalu). Both have quarterback issues (Flacco has hit a sophomore slump, and Roethlisberger is sidelined). And both teams can't afford a loss in the AFC wild-card race. Edge: EVEN

Prediction: The Ravens have dominated teams with question marks at quarterback this season. This should be no different with the inexperienced Dixon. The expected loss of Big Ben is a big boost to the Ravens' playoff hopes. RAVENS , 16-6

When the Ravens have the ball

Ravens offense

WR: 89 Clayton

LT: 71 Gaither

LG: 66 Grubbs

C: 77 Birk

RG: 65 Chester

RT: 74 Oher

TE: 86 Heap

QB: 5 Flacco

FB: 33 L. McClain

RB: 27 Rice

WR: 85 Mason

Steelers defense

DE: 90 Kirschke

NT: 98 Hampton

DE: 99 Keisel

OLB: 56 Woodley

ILB: 51 Farrior

ILB: 94 Timmons

OLB: 92 Harrison

LCB: 24 Taylor

SS: 23 Carter

FS: 25 Clark

RCB: 22 Gay

When the Steelers have the ball

Steelers offense

WR: 86 Ward

LT: 78 Starks

LG: 73 Foster

C: 62 Hartwig

RG: 79 Essex

RT: 74 Colon

TE: 83 Miller

QB: 2 Dixon

FB: 38 Davis

RB: 34 Mendenhall

WR: 10 Holmes

Ravens defense

DT: 94 Bannan

NT: 97 Gregg

DE: 93 Edwards

OLB: 53 McClain

ILB: 56 Gooden

ILB: 52 Lewis

OLB: 95 Johnson

LCB: 21 Webb

SS: 26 Landry

FS: 20 Reed

RCB: 24 Foxworth

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