Notebook

OWINGS MILLS – There's no grand secret to achieving success in the red zone, according to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Punching it into the end zone is a matter of superior strength, leverage, brute force and sheer determination. The Ravens will need a heavy supply of those qualities during Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field

The Ravens will need a heavy supply of those qualities during Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

"Will, our will against their will," Rice said. "Down there, if everything is blocked up right usually the back has one man to beat." The Ravens struggled in the red zone during their 30-7 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round, getting stuffed on a first-and-goal situation on their opening drive. They wound up converting only two of five opportunities for touchdowns, settling for three field goals. "We've got to win our one-on-ones in the red zone," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "We've got to be 11-on-11 down there, like [Al Saunders] is trying to tell us every week when he's installing the red zone plan. We've just got to get everybody on the same page. We've got to get touchdowns instead of field goals. That's the main thing."

During the regular season, the Ravens converted just 49 percent of their 51 red-zone shots with 25 touchdowns to rank 22nd in the league. And the Steelers are tied for second in red-zone defense, giving up just 16 touchdowns out of 40 possessions inside their 20-yard line. "They do a great job of making piles," said Rice, who's the last running back to eclipse the century mark against Pittsburgh in 50 games with 141 yards against them on Dec. 27, 2009. "One thing about the goal line that's different than the middle of field of play is you want to make piles. That's what great defenses do.

"They make piles so the ball bubbles and then everybody rallies. If we get a little push on our goal line, and we get one of our backs one-on-one I'll take that matchup." The Steelers are incredibly stout against the run, ranking first in the league by allowing only 62.8 rushing yards per contest. The Ravens rank 14th in rushing offense, gaining 114.4 yards per game with Rice leading the charge with 1,220 yards and five touchdowns. They only rushed for 70 yards in the first game against Pittsburgh and 43 yards in the second game.

"We know what they are against the run," Rice said. "You can't just take the ball and run it right at them. You have to pick and choose where you run the ball against their team." STRONG TRACK RECORD: Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is one of the fastest deep threats in the game. He caught 60 passes this season for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 21 yards per reception.

Against the Ravens, though, Wallace hasn't caught a touchdown this season with two catches for 24 yards in the first meeting in Pittsburgh and five catches for 76 yards in the second game. A major reason why Wallace has been unable to strike deep against Wallace: the coverage of speedy Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. Webb's recovery speed came in handy in the first game, a 17-14 Ravens win, as he caught up to Wallace to knock the football down in the end zone after he broke free.

"Lardarius can run, for one thing, and Mike can run, so that helps," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Lardarius is very athletic. I think he's getting more and more healthy with the knee. That's helped him. "He's playing with really good technique. He's been very disciplined. So, if he can continue to grow and play that way, he should be fine." A former third-round draft pick from Nicholls State (La.), Webb is proud of how he has played against Wallace. Not so proud that he's going to brag about it, though. "It don't mean nothing at all at all, I don't even want you to bring it up," Webb said. "It don't matter. It's big time now. It's a different game. It's the playoffs. It's Pittsburgh. It's a whole different mentality. It's a new game. After this game, I hope you can say the same. "I don't even want to talk about it. He's a great wide receiver. I did OK against him, but not as well as everybody wants to say. How we graded it out, I did OK." Webb ran the 40 yard-dash in 4.3 seconds before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last year. Wallace has 4.33 speed and a 40-inch vertical leap. "You're going to need some makeup speed because his speed is a little different than me, DeSean Jackson speed," Webb said. "They've got totally different speed. I've only seen one other person run like that and that's Johnny Knox. They flyin'."

KINDLE WAITING TO HEAR IF HE'LL BE BACK: Rookie outside linebacker Sergio Kindle is awaiting word from the organization about their plans for him for next season.

Still not medically cleared by doctors after fracturing his skull in late July when he fell down two flights of stairs, Kindle missed his entire rookie season.

Now, the former University of Texas star is hoping the Ravens will retain him as an exclusive rights free agent during the offseason. He was signed to a one-year, $320,000 contract, but the team can hold onto him by assigning him a minimum tender. "They haven't told me they wouldn't bring me back," Kindle said Wednesday in the Ravens' locker room. Kindle is also dealing with an off-field legal issue, a driving under the influence arrest and charge from last month. He has been assigned a March 5 court date in Howard County, Md., and has hired Pikesville attorney Andrew Alperstein to represent him.

"I'm just continuing to do what I need to do to get healthy and let Roger Goodell and the NFL and the legal issues handle themselves and we'll see from there," Kindle said. "Actually, I'm getting to do drills now. I can't do contact and I do the drills away from the team, solo." Because of the unresolved collective bargaining agreement situation, Kindle won't be able to continue his rehabilitation at the Ravens' training complex once the season ends due to medical insurance issues affected by a potential lockout. He's already making contingency plans to train in his hometown as he continues to work on his neurological health.

"I'm getting my rehab set up so I can continue to do that once the season is over back in Dallas," Kindle said. "I'm trying to set it up where I can train in Dallas at the place I did before the combine."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed disappointment in Kindle last month after the second-round draft pick was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol when he registered a blood-alcohol level over twice the Maryland legal limit.

Kindle, 23, met with Harbaugh after being arrested and charged with DWI, failure to obey traffic control devices and speeding. He registered a 0.17 blood-alcohol level, over twice the Maryland limit of 0.08. This isn't Kindle's first brush with law enforcement having a previous DWI while attending the University of Texas as well as a separate incident where he drove his car into an apartment building when he was texting while driving as well as getting into bar fights. "He's got a track record for making really poor decision, and he knows that," Harbaugh said in December. "That's a problem, and if he wants to achieve the things in football and life, you've got to make good decisions and you've got to do the right things. And you've got to earn that trust and loyalty.

"So, he's not off to a good start through college or the NFL right now. But he's a good person. He's got a good heart, I believe, and I think he's fully capable of achieving all of his goals. It's on his shoulders, right? He's the one who's got to make those choices." Kindle has acknowledged he takes medication for narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder. In December, Kindle got bad news from a doctor at Sinai Hospital who told him that he might not be able to play next season due to his head injury and neurological condition. Kindle has seemed extremely disappointed and sad about that development.

"It wouldn't mean anything to me," said Harbaugh when asked if the team is worried that Kindle's medical outlook may be affecting his state of mind. "That's not an excuse. Yeah, we're always concerned about everybody's state of mind. I think we do a really good job here medically with our medical staff. "Doctors, we're involved with psychology, we're involved with all those things to try to help all of our employees. I think the Ravens are one of the more forward-thinking organizations in the league that way. So, he's in good hands that way. In the end, it's his responsibility and he knows that."

Kindle continues to root for his team as they prepare for Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"To the end because regardless of if I'm playing or not I'm still a part of the team and I want all the guys to know that," Kindle said. "And I'm pretty sure they already do."



SUGGS FLIPS STEELERS THE BIRD: Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs upped the ante in the blood feud with the Pittsburgh Steelers without even saying a word. During interviews Wednesday, Suggs sported a black T-shirt that says, "Hey Pittsburgh" and has a large Raven giving the middle finger salute. Over the summer, Suggs wore a shirt at training camp that said: "You bet your sweet ass I hate Pittsburgh."

Team officials tried to stop Suggs from wearing the shirt during interviews, but were unsuccessful in deterring him. "Nah, there ain't no message," Suggs said. "Like I always say, I put on for my city. They rep their city and I'm repping mine. So, here we go. "Do I seem worried? This game is going to be what it is, regardless. It's a physical dogfight, so I'm not expecting anything different. And this is the shirt I wore this morning. This is just the shirt I chose."

Suggs said the rivalry is unparalleled. "When it comes to football, it's the most physical game of the year," Suggs said. "It's going to be a physical gang fight, just like the first two games were." Suggs said the hatred extends to the fans in the stands. "When we go down there, they always hit us with the number ones," Suggs said. "I don't know how they act here because I've always been in the locker room by the time all the fans get here. I'm pretty sure we're hitting them with the number ones. It's whatever. We're just going to go play a football game." Suggs said he embraces the enmity between the two teams and cities. "I like playing football, and I like being a villain," Suggs said. "We like playing on the road, so I'll be the bad guy."



INJURY UPDATES: Center Matt Birk (knee) and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (illness) didn't practice. Birk has been getting rested on Wednesdays each week lately.

Cornerback Chris Carr (thigh) was limited. Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) participated fully, as did safety Tom Zbikowski (bulging disc in his back). Offensive tackle Michael Oher (sprained right knee, ankle) is no longer on the injury report. "I'm good," he said. "I'm all right." Rookie kickoff returner David Reed is getting healthier after missing the past three games with a torn left wrist ligament. "I'm getting there," he said. "It's good, it's back." Reed has said he'll likely need to undergo offseason surgery.

Reed led the NFL with a 29.3 kickoff return average during the regular season, returning a kickoff 103 yards to set a franchise record against the Houston Texans. He said it remains unclear if he'll be allowed to play Saturday. "I don't know," he said. "It's still up in the air right now." Harbaugh predicted Monday that Reed should be able to play this week. If he can't go, Jalen Parmele will be the primary kickoff returner.

"I think David can go," Harbaugh said. "He's getting better at catching the ball and stuff. He made a lot of progress last week." The Steelers rested safety Troy Polamalu (ankle). Cornerback Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps tendon) were limited. Smith isn't expected to play, but might be able to return for the Super Bowl if the Steelers advance that far.

WR SIGNED: The Baltimore Ravens have signed former Buffalo Bills wide receiver James Hardy to their offseason roster.

Hardy was signed to a reserve/future deal. Under NFL rules, he's not eligible to play in any playoff games and can officially join the team after the Super Bowl. A former second-round draft pick from Indiana, the imposing free agent is listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

Drafted in 2008 and cut in September, Hardy has caught just 10 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

Hardy has tried out for several teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts, but didn't play for a team all of this season

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