Wright set to face his former team: the Steelers

OWINGS MILLS – When Anthony Wright departed the University of South Carolina campus, he carried a reputation for having excellent arm strength and leadership.He wound up on the discard pile, though, going undrafted after his senior year one season after undergoing major knee surgery. The Pittsburgh Steelers picked Wright up and he actually made their active roster as a rookie as the fourth quarterback. Teams rarely carry an extra passer.

Four years later, the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback will start tonight at M&T Bank Stadium against the same Steelers defense he used to compete against as Pittsburgh's scout team quarterback. Plus, the outcome of this ESPN-televised game could decide the AFC North title for the Ravens. "I've been waiting for this one, trust me," said Wright, who has posted a 4-2 mark in relief of first-round draft pick Kyle Boller after Boller tore his quadriceps. "This is it. I'm going to try to stay focused on our situation and do the things I need to do to help us win. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, but I'm not going to harp on it."

Since leaving Pittsburgh, where he tried to evade fierce outside linebackers Jason Gildon and Joey Porter on a daily basis, Wright spent two years with the Dallas Cowboys. He played well in relief and started five games, but eventually fell out of favor after owner Jerry Jones hand-picked Quincy Carter to become the Dallas starter. Then, he was claimed by Baltimore last season off waivers. Now, Wright is poised to help Baltimore (9-6) earn its first division title and return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher remembers Wright well, listing a host of positive attributes for a quarterback who was listed behind Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak and Pete Gonzalez on the depth chart. "He is a guy that has a good arm," Cowher said. "His decision-making has been good and he has been very efficient. We knew even having him here that he has good mobility, good speed and very good arm strength. "I don't think they are asking him to win games. They are asking him to fit within that offense and he has done a very good job of running that offense."

In six games, Wright has completed 78-of-151 passes for 1,036 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 74.3 quarterback rating. After leading Baltimore to successive 44-point outings in wins over Seattle and San Francisco, including four touchdowns in the second half of an overtime victory over the Seahawks, Wright has cooled off. In his last three starts, he has completed 47 percent of his passes, averaging 10 completions per contest and threw for only 90 yards last Sunday for the fourth-lowest total in team history.

The Ravens have the 32nd rated passing offense in the league. Wright attributes the trend to defenses' adjustments to the Ravens' schemes. Against the Oakland Raiders two weeks ago, safeties were sprinting toward his roll-out spots on waggle passes as soon as the football was snapped. "They are changing," Wright said. "You can only get away with so many things."

Wright doesn't expect to get away with much against Porter, Gildon, Kendrell Bell and James Farrior, among others in defensive coordinator Tim Lewis' blitz-oriented 3-4 alignment. "I came in with Joey and those guys and had a chance to see their talent," Wright said. "I know what they can and can't do. They have a very fast linebacking corps. You can't sleep on them at all."

Nor, apparently, will the Steelers sleep on Wright. "He was one of those guys who had all the intangibles," Cowher said. "Any time that you can get a guy like that in camp, it's great. Now, he's getting a chance to play. That's something he couldn't get here or in Dallas. He is seizing it.

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