"This young team is still developing and it is new to them," coach Brian Billick said. "I don't think the newness will be a problem for them."
What could hurt more than inexperience is the Ravens' propensity for turning the ball over. The Ravens have committed 38 turnovers, which was tied for second-most in the NFL. Much of that trouble can be traced to quarterback Anthony Wright. In seven starts, he has turned the ball over 11 times (eight interceptions and three fumbles lost). Wright is the worst-ranked quarterback in the AFC playoffs with a 72.3 rating. No other AFC quarterback has a rating below 85.9. In fact, four AFC playoff quarterbacks rank in the NFL's top five in passer rating.
The Ravens break the mold with their run-oriented style. "We have been here before and had some success with it," Billick said. "In a playoff situation, you can only do what we do best. We will see if it is successful in the playoffs. Anthony will have to step his game up just like every quarterback, Pro Bowl or not, in the playoffs."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--NT Kelly Gregg signed a five-year extension, solidifying himself as the long-term answer at nose tackle. He lacks size but he uses excellent leverage to take on blocks and fill gaps.
--LB Peter Boulware could be more doubtful than questionable for the Wild Card game. He is still limping from a sprained knee, which could hinder the Ravens' ability to pressure Steve McNair. But coach Brian Billick said he was "fairly optimistic" about Boulware's status.
--RG Bennie Anderson didn't play a snap because of a knee injury. The extra rest should allow him to start against the Titans.
--TE Todd Heap was nonexistent in the game plan, getting three passes thrown his direction. He finished with one catch for one yard and doesn't seem to have a connection with quarterback Anthony Wright.
--S Chad Williams could be the league's best dime back, making one impact play each game. A physical presence over the middle and on blitz packages, he has a sack, interception, a forced fumble and eight passes broken up.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I never thought I'd see the day I would be rooting for Cleveland again. (Browns president) Carmen Policy sent me a late Christmas gift." -- Owner Art Modell, whose Ravens clinched the AFC North after Cleveland -- the city from which he relocated his team in 1995 -- upset the Cincinnati Bengals.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD vs. STEELERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Anthony Wright had another erratic game and forced too many deep throws. He finished 16-for-27 for 163 yards and an interception. After passing for 38 yards in the first half, he connected with his favorite target, Marcus Robinson, three times for throws of 20 yards or more. Tight end Todd Heap was nonexistent with one catch for one yard.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Jamal Lewis did most of his damage early, gaining 73 yards on his first seven carries. He tailed off in the final three quarters with 41 yards on his last 20 attempts. The Ravens offensive line opened huge holes at the beginning but had trouble creating running lanes when Pittsburgh dropped an eighth man in the box. Lewis finished as the league's second-most prolific single-season rusher and 39 yards shy of Eric Dickerson's 1984 NFL mark of 2,105 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Ravens sacked quarterback Tommy Maddox five times, intercepted him three times and batted five of his passes down at the line. They didn't give up a pass over 13 yards. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter clamped down on receivers Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, who have combined for three catches for 24 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Ravens haven't allowed a running back to surpass 72 yards in the past six games. They shut down Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis, who had 100-yard games in two of the previous three weeks. The Ravens plugged up the middle and limited Bettis to 54 yards on 23 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- All 10 of Pittsburgh's points can be traced back to lapses on the Ravens' special teams. The touchdown came off a fake punt and the field goal was a result of a 29-yard punt. The Ravens averaged 6.3 on punt returns and 18.3 on kickoff returns.
COACHING: C -- Having already clinched the division, coach Brian Billick kept his starters in for the entire game. It was a hard-hitting game and Billick put his top-line players at risk. Plus, the Ravens could have used the extra rest in a shortened, six-day week.