Ravens' McAlister vows secondary will improve

OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister acknowledged in a subdued tone Monday that the secondary needs to extinguish the flames after getting torched by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In a blur of movement and noise that marked the Ravens' 34-15 loss Sunday, Pittsburgh wideouts Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward combined for 15 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

"The biggest thing I learned is you can't break down mentally," said McAlister, the Ravens' franchise player. "A lot of bad things can happen. I personally have to step it up."

A lot of negative things did transpire in the Ravens' fifth loss in a row to Pittsburgh. Especially in the third quarter after veteran cornerback Corey Fuller strained his quadriceps and Gary Baxter shifted over from free safety. Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox, who went 21-for-29 for 260 yards and three touchdowns, took advantage of busted coverages on scores to Ward and tight end Jay Riemersma. The lack of a pass rush contributed, too.

"We knew what hit us," said McAlister, who's being paid $5.962 million this season. "The sad part is it was nothing they did special. It was a matter of us not executing our defense. When they got their touchdowns and big plays, it was us."

When McAlister was asked what he would do to try to reverse this troubling trend, he vowed to improve his practice habits and encourage his teammates to do the same. He isn't about to become much of a verbal leader, though. "I'm not really a big talker," McAlister said. "Cheering them up is one thing, but giving them a pep talk or a pep rally that's not me."

Ward and Burress kept taunting the Ravens' defensive backs. In particular, Burress has a history of getting the best of McAlister and the Ravens. Now, Burress has 26 receptions for 443 yards and four touchdowns in the last five meetings.

McAlister was given one personal foul for shoving Pittsburgh receiver Chris Doering in the face after a play. He said he didn't talk much to Burress and Ward. "I personally barely uttered a few words," McAlister said.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said he wasn't concerned about his team's composure. It will be another 15 weeks before the Ravens get another shot at their chief nemesis. "I'm not worried about them right now," McAlister said. "That game is going to come at the end of the season. When that week gets here, then I'll have a lot to talk about."

SALAVE'A SIGNED: The Ravens re-signed defensive lineman Joe Salave'a and released reserve offensive guard Jason Thomas. The vested veteran and former Tennessee Titans starter was cut after the Giants' preseason game when he had a sack and a forced fumble. "This is where I wanted to be and I gave my word to our defensive line coach [Rex Ryan]," Salave'a said. "I just wanted to get another shot to contribute."

READY TO GO: The Ravens had Monday off except for meetings and treatment although tight end Todd Heap was in full uniform to tape a commercial.

Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller shouted across the locker room to Heap: "Hey, man, I'm with you. I'm ready. Let's go right now."

INJURY UPDATE: Fuller said his leg is somewhat sore, but isn't too serious. "I think it's something freaky," the former Browns starter said. "I've only missed four games in my career due to injury. If I can go, I can go. If I can't, it must be really bad."

Billick said the Ravens hope to get cornerbacks Tom Knight (hamstring) and Alvin Porter (groin) back this week along with receiver Frank Sanders (toes).

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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