Ravens Update

Ravens searching for consistency against the Steelers

The Baltimore Ravens' identity crisis continues to puzzle people inside and outside of the organization.

From game to game, half to half and even quarter to quarter, the Ravens' bizarre inconsistency has been baffling.

Are the Ravens (5-2) the confident outfit that dominated the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers to launch the season? Or are they the struggling bunch that fell behind by three touchdowns to the Arizona Cardinals before engineering a dramatic comeback Sunday to manufacture a 30-27 victory? The logical answer: The Ravens are a little bit of both, for better or worse.

They're capable of trouncing the Steelers, St. Louis Rams, New York Jets and Houston Texans by a combined margin of 91 points. And they're vulnerable to be upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans. So, who are the Ravens?

"It's obviously a tough question," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "When we play good fundamental football, we're a good football team. It comes down to that. It comes down to playing good, solid football. It's technique, it's attention to detail. It's getting a little momentum.

"That sure helps you on offense when you can get the chains moving and make a couple first downs. It's understanding the things that we do well and then doing them well. In the end, it's guys making plays. When guys come up and start making plays, it seems to have a little momentum-building effect."

Against the Cardinals, the Ravens finished with 405 yards of total offense and 30 first downs. However, they generated only 156 yards and a dozen first downs in the first half. Against the Jaguars, the Ravens gained zero first downs in the first 40 minutes and didn't score until there were two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

"It doesn't feel too good when you go out there and you're not playing well as an offense and not putting points on the board," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We've been inconsistent." And that might prove costly against the Steelers (6-2), the reigning AFC North champions who have won six consecutive games heading into Sunday night's rematch against Baltimore at Heinz Field. "It's a big game," Harbaugh said. "It's a game that we love to play in. It's Ravens-Steelers. We know how to play that game, they know how to play that game. We're looking forward to it, I do know that."

If the Ravens sweep the Steelers for the first time since the 2006 season when Baltimore claimed its most recent division title, it could set them up for a division title and automatic playoff berth as well as potentially home-field advantage in the postseason.

The Steelers are coming off an emotional 25-17 victory over the New England Patriots as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger exploited the NFL's last-ranked defense for 365 yards and two touchdowns while Pittsburgh limited Tom Brady to 213 yards of total offense. Now, the Ravens are about to square off with the Steelers again as the two rivals resume their blood feud.

"We know what this is: it's Pittsburgh and Ravens," free safety Ed Reed said. "They started off rough, but here they go. They are playing good. It's going to be a battle. It's always good football."

The Steelers, though, are expected to be without star linebackers James Harrison (broken orbital bone), LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and James Farrior (calf).

"They're the same team," Harbaugh said. "They've got injuries, they've got adversity that they've been battling. I think they're the same Steelers that they've always been. They're a tough, hard-nosed team. They've got a great quarterback and a great defense and they're as physical as can be.

"It's a team we respect To me, they are the Steelers. Every game is a little different. They are in a different injury situation or they are in a different record or whatever, but that is the only difference."

Unlike the Patriots, the Ravens can count on one thing: a top-ranked defense.

The Ravens are allowing only 263.3 yards per contest, ranking second in scoring defense (15.7 average), third in rushing defense (89.1 yards) and third in pass defense (174.1) and first in third-down defensive percentage (28.6 percent). And the Ravens have stuck together despite the travails of the NFL's 14th-ranked offense. "The sentiment was basically we are a team, and we've got team players," Harbaugh said. "The consummate team player does not criticize one another, does not point fingers at one another, we don't blame one another. That's not what a team does. A team trusts one another, believes in one another, supports one another, has each other's back.

"When you do that, guys are going to come through. Our guys are very mature about that. When you build a team, the kind of team we've built, you can withstand adversity. Stay together, hang together, play together, try to find a way to win. Whether it's within a game or from one week to the next. To me, we've proven as a team that's one thing we're very good at."

NOTES: The Ravens placed linebacker and special-teams contributor Prescott Burgess on injured reserve with a torn abdominal injury. A magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed the damage.

The Ravens are flying in a linebacker for a physical this morning to replace Burgess on the active roster, pending a physical. Meanwhile, the Ravens cut rookie safety Mana Silva from the practice squad and signed rookie wide receiver Rodney Bradley to the practice squad.

Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk won his appeal of a $5,000 fine for removing his microphone against the New York Jets, according to his agent, Joe Linta.

Birk said the microphone was jutting against his neck, so he took it off. NFL rules require centers or guards to wear microphones.

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