Game Day Notebook

Red-hot kickers; not 'Haley's offense'; Timmons the ballhawk; more.

Seven of the last eight regular-season games between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have been decided by four points or less. And six of those have been decided by exactly three points.

So it will pay to have a good kicker tonight, and this game will have two of the NFL's hottest.

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, a rookie out of Texas, has made 17 of his 18 field goal attempts. His only miss was from 47 yards. He's kicked four 50-yarders, including a long of 56. His 27-yarder as time expired beat the New England Patriots.

Tucker ranks fourth in NFL percentage (.944), right behind Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham (.952), whose only miss in 21 kicks was from 54 yards.

Suisham signed with the Steelers two years ago yesterday. He made 14 of 15 kicks that season but slipped to 23 of 31 last season. He's bounced back strong, but the only difference this season, according to Suisham, is "the ball's going through the uprights.

"Seriously, kicking field goals, there's a fine line," he said. "It's very fragile, kicking. I'm doing nothing different. I feel the same, prepared the same. I feel the same now as I did last year in every respect."

Tucker makes up for Suisham's edge in experience with a stronger leg. Tucker is fourth in the NFL with 32 touchbacks on kickoffs, while Suisham has only 15.

Back there waiting for those non-touchbacks for the Ravens will be Jacoby Jones, who leads the NFL with a 38.6-yard kickoff return average. Jones is the first player in NFL history with two 105-plus returns in the same season (105 and 108).

NO ‘HALEY OFFENSE'

Byron Leftwich won't have to fit the system with Todd Haley. The Steelers' offensive coordinator said he'll adapt his calls to Leftwich's talents.

"This is why I make the point every time you all say ‘Haley offense,'" Haley told a group of Pittsburgh reporters. "It's not my offense. We're going to do things that cater to the strengths of our players and obviously that will be critical when you talk about the quarterback position. We're going to do our best to cater to Byron's strengths."

Leftwich's strong arm stands out as one strength. What else does Haley like?

"He's just got that ‘It' factor," Haley said. "Everybody remembers when he was (at Marshall) and his team was carrying him down the field with his leg dangling from the knee joint. That isn't something that everybody has, but he has it. When things occurred in the game last week, there was a look in his eye. There was never a moment that you didn't really think he was a cool customer, because he's done it and he's just got that moxie that good quarterbacks seem to have."

Somebody asked Haley if he might prefer Charlie Batch as "a better fit."

"Were you just here a second ago?" Haley said with a laugh. "I just said it's not this offense. Byron's the guy. Byron's in there and we're going to cater to Byron's strengths."

THE BALLHAWK

Lawrence Timmons's overtime interception not only set the Steelers up to kick the game-winning field goal, he took the team interception lead with 2.

Hey, it's been a dry run.

"He actually plays Troy's old position on third downs," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "He has done that for several years now. He is a versatile player. He can play in the middle of the defense and on the edge. He can play coverage on the tight end in third-down situations. He is a tremendously talented athlete and we are lucky to have him."

Timmons also showed off those crazy legs of his during the 23-yard return, just as he shows off his arm in deep passing competitions every spring.

"He told me that he was one of the top offensive prospects coming out of high school," LeBeau said. "I used to deny that, but after that run he made on Monday night, I think he has a point."

BY THE NUMBERS

The Steelers (4-0) are one of four NFL teams still undefeated at home this season: Baltimore (5-0), Seattle (5-0), Atlanta (4-0). The Steelers were also 4-0 last year until Baltimore beat them 23-20 on a Sunday night. … With four consecutive wins, the Steelers, Green Bay, Denver and Indianapolis have the longest active win streaks in the NFL. … The Steelers have been 6-3 the last five seasons now. They were 7-2 in 2007. … The Steelers haven't given up 300 net passing yards in a game since Nov. 14, 210 when New England threw for 350. … In holding Chiefs QB Matt Cassel to a 46.0 passer rating, the Steelers have held opposing QBs to passer ratings of 75.0 or less for the fifth straight game and sixth time this season.

The Ravens have won 11 straight games vs. AFC North teams, the longest active streak in the NFL (Green Bay 8). … Ravens WR Anquan Boldin averages 93.2 receiving yards per game vs. the Steelers (466 in 5). … The Ravens are 9-1 when Torrey Smith catches a touchdown pass. As a rookie last year, Smith caught 5-71-1 at Heinz Field. … Terrell Suggs has 13½ sacks vs. Pittsburgh, 18½ counting the post-season. … The Steelers (16.2) and the Ravens (16.9) have allowed the fewest points in the NFL since 2008.

QUOTABLE

LeBeau on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:

"It's one of the all-time best rivalries. It really is. There is always something riding on the games for the most part, whether it's in the regular season or the playoffs. It's a great rivalry. I think it will be a great game."


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