Ravens, Browns, Steelers Team Notes

Tuesday notes, quotes, anecdotes and other fascinating stuff for the Browns, Steelers and Ravens. No Bengals notes today - not that anyone cares.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS
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INSIDE SLANT
The Ravens could be without all three of their Pro Bowl offensive players Sunday when they play at the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back Jamal Lewis is the only one definitely ruled out as he sits out the final game of his two-game NFL suspension. Tight end Todd Heap likely will be questionable with a sprained right ankle.
And left tackle Jonathan Ogden is considered doubtful after pulling his hamstring in the final minutes of Sunday's 20-6 win over the Buffalo Bills. Ravens officials said they will wait until getting the result of his MRI before giving a timetable. But Ogden was walking around with a limp and had a six-foot crutch by his locker.
"We're less than 24 hours away from the injury," coach Brian Billick said. "It is a hamstring, the severity of which we'll have to see. We'll have to declare him on Wednesday and we'll wait until Wednesday to do so."
In addition to Ogden, the rest of the Ravens' offensive tackles are in bad shape, too.
Starting right tackle Orlando Brown smashed his index finger and missed a few series Sunday. Backup tackle Ethan Brooks, who is behind Ogden, broke his thumb in that game.
Both are expected to play this Sunday.
"Someone around here is a jinx," Brooks said. "We just haven't figured out who yet."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Rookie B.J. Sams has been promoted as a return specialist all season, but he is a running back by trade and finally could place himself with the other backs after getting his first carry from that position - a 5-yard touchdown run on a pitch in the second quarter.
"We have three excellent running backs that handled their business even though Jamal (Lewis) was out," Sams said.
Sams, Chester Taylor and Musa Smith combined for 105 yards on 28 carries. But it was Sams who got the key third-and-goal call from the Bills' 5, a play that put the team up 17-3.
"That means the coach has a lot of confidence in me, and I took advantage of it," Sams said.
--Safety Chad Williams often seems to be in the right place at the right time, and Sunday he contributed two big plays in the Ravens' victory.
In the first quarter, he deflected a screen pass intended for Willis McGahee into the hands of Deion Sanders, who returned the ball 48 yards for a touchdown.
Later, Williams took advantage of a deflection by Ray Lewis to make his own interception at the Ravens' 1-yard line. He returned the ball 93 yards before being caught from behind by receiver Eric Moulds, even though he had a host of blockers.
"It hit me dead in my hands," Williams said. "I was kind of surprised. Your first instinct is to just get somewhere. I got past the linemen, then turned it on, but I guess I turned it on too early. I got tired. I felt a little pressure coming from the left, so I tried to angle it upfield and that turned out to be the wrong thing because that gave (Moulds) more ground to cover."
--Good things rarely come from an early turnover, but Ravens coach Brian Billick found something positive in his team's fumble on its second play from scrimmage.
Bills end Aaron Schobel sacked Kyle Boller and forced a fumble that was recovered by Jeff Posey at the Ravens' 22-yard line. The Bills, though, were held to a field goal.
"It was kind of a wake-up for us, which is good because emotionally I'm not sure I cared for the way we came out," Billick said. "That kind of woke us up a little bit, so that was good."
PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES
--C Casey Rabach will start at center despite Mike Flynn being healthy enough to play Sunday.
--C Mike Flynn will not regain his starting job after recovering from a collarbone injury that sidelined him the first six games of the season. He will rotate with right guard Bennie Anderson for about 40 snaps.
--OT Jonathan Ogden is not expected to play after pulling his hamstring Sunday. The severity of the injury will not be known until Wednesday.
--OT Ethan Brooks is expected to make his second start in place of injured Jonathan Ogden. Brooks has had trouble with speed rushers and getting flagged for false starts.
--QB Anthony Wright will not come off the physically unable to perform list until next week at the earliest. His shoulder is healthy enough for him to practice but the Ravens are so banged up they don't want to reshuffle their roster now.
--LB Peter Boulware will remain on the physically unable to perform list for another couple of weeks. The timetable for his return from offseason knee surgery is still not known.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. BILLS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Kyle Boller completed 10 of 19 passes for 86 yards. He started out strong but lost his touch in the final three quarters. Boller failed to complete a pass in the second half. But he had only one turnover, which led to three Buffalo points. The Ravens receivers dropped three passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Chester Taylor played well filling in for the suspended Jamal Lewis, gaining 89 yards on 21 carries. There were times he made yards when there were no holes. He did an excellent job hiding behind the Ravens' linemen and then cutting back. He gave the Ravens an extra dimension on offense by catching passes out of the backfield and in the flats. Backup Musa Smith never found his rhythm.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- Terrell Suggs had two sacks and has become one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. Reserve safety Chad Williams had a hand in two of the Ravens' four interceptions, deflecting one and picking off another. The Bills seemed afraid to attack cornerbacks Chris McAlister, Gary Baxter and Deion Sanders downfield. Most teams have a vertical passing game, but the Bills were horizontal. Sanders had two interceptions, both of which came off good reads.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Ravens held the Bills to 85 yards rushing, Buffalo's lowest total of the season. With nose tackle Kelly Gregg, they controlled the line of scrimmage. End Tony Weaver and especially Marques Douglas were relentless in pursuit. Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas has had the most consistent year among this group, but second-year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is developing into a complete linebacker, too.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Dave Zastudil had an excellent game punting, but kicker Wade Richey had another short kickoff. It sounds like no big deal, but he is only on the roster to kick long, and he has kicked three out of bounds this season.
COACHING: B-plus -- The Ravens tried to be diversified with their offense, using Deion Sanders as a receiver and B.J. Sams as a running back. But those changes produced little results. The defense had a perfect game plan with pocket passer Drew Bledsoe, applying just enough pressure without giving up too much in the back end. For the first time this season, the Ravens were emotionally ready to play a team with a losing record.


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CLEVELAND BROWNS
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INSIDE SLANT
There's no such thing as moral victories.
That's what Butch Davis drummed into his players' heads in the locker room Sunday after the Browns lost 34-31 to undefeated Philadelphia.
He continued in that vein Monday. Usually, Davis downplays the negative and accentuates the positive, but he was in no such mood.
"I don't like losing," Davis said. "It makes me sick.
"We didn't win a game (Sunday) where we had a really good chance to beat a helluva good football team."
There were plenty of hopeful signs in the loss, Davis conceded. The offense scored 31 points for the second straight game. Not since 1987 have the Browns had consecutive games scoring 30 or more points.
Jeff Garcia looks more and more comfortable in the offense. He threw for 236 yards despite having a depleted receiving corps.
But the defense gave up too many big plays and yielded 488 yards to the Eagles.
Defensive end Kenard Lang said the defense committed 20-30 mental errors.
"When you spread the mental errors over all the position groups and the nickel package, there were more mental errors than we had in maybe two years," Davis said.
With a bye week upcoming, the Browns have two weeks to stew about the loss. Cleveland returns to face Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets, who have a combined record of 14-4.


NOTES, QUOTES
--Phil Dawson set a Browns record by making a 38-yard field goal for his 24th consecutive successful kick. He broke the record set by Matt Stover, who went to Dawson's high school in Texas. Who holds most of the Lake Highlands High School records? "I'll let Matt answer that," Dawson said with a smile.
--Jeff Garcia ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 30 seconds left to send the game to overtime. It was Garcia's ninth rushing touchdown in the last two years, the most by any NFL quarterback in that span.
Garcia's comfort with the offense continues to improve.
"I told (quarterbacks) coach (Steve) Hagan that I'm getting it," Garcia said. "I'm starting to get it. That feels good."
--WR Andre King got his first NFL start at wide receiver - excluding a 2002 game against Pittsburgh when he started as a third receiver for one play - but it didn't last long. King sprained his ankle after a catch and didn't return. The injury was especially costly because King had been given kick-return duties following the release of Dee Brown. With King out, James Jackson and Frisman Jackson each fumbled a kickoff return.
--WR Antonio Bryant caught two passes for 26 yards in his Cleveland debut. Traded for Quincy Morgan last Tuesday, Bryant took 22 snaps. Coach Butch Davis said Bryant committed only one mental error.
--Tight end Aaron Shea tied a career high with six catches. He last had that many catches against Tennessee on Dec. 2, 2001.
--RB William Green scored his first touchdown of the season on an 11-yard run in the first quarter.
--Tight end Steve Heiden had a 21-yard touchdown catch, which was the longest reception of his six-year NFL career.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES
PASSING OFFENSE: B - Considering the shortage at wide receiver, it would have been hard to expect much more. The Browns traded Quincy Morgan to Dallas for Antonio Bryant, who had to get a crash course in the offense. Andre Davis was out with a sprained toe, and fill-in starter Andre King sprained his ankle in the second possession. Bryant had to play more than expected, and Cleveland had to use Frisman Jackson - just up from the practice squad last week. Still, Jeff Garcia completed 21 of 32 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception on a deep ball intended for Dennis Northcutt. A couple of other times Garcia forced deep balls to Northcutt, but other than that, he threw to the right places with accuracy. Browns blockers did a nice job against Philadelphia's blitzes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Browns running backs Lee Suggs and William Green combined for 142 yards in 29 carries, but their production tailed off after halftime. Suggs and Green ran for 119 yards in 15 carries in the first 30 minutes. Green had an 11-yard touchdown run, and Suggs had a 13-yarder for a score. But after halftime, Suggs and Green gained only 23 yards in 14 carries. The biggest difference was a change in Philadelphia's defense. In the first half, the Eagles, particularly linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, tended to overpursue. In the second half, the Eagles were more disciplined, and the Browns didn't adjust as well as they could have.
PASS DEFENSE: D - It started badly and never got much better as Donovan McNabb threw for four touchdowns and 376 yards. On Philadelphia's first play, Todd Pinkston beat Daylon McCutcheon deep on a 65-yarder. On the next play, McNabb threw to wide open tight end Chad Lewis in the middle of the end zone. Twice, Terrell Owens beat Anthony Henry for touchdowns, one on a 39-yarder, the other a 40-yarder. The pass rush was non-existent for most of the game until Ebenezer Ekuban and Gerard Warren got late sacks.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus - The Eagles averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 23 runs, a stat that is somewhat skewed by a 28-yard scramble by McNabb on Philadelphia's game-winning overtime possession. Brian Westbrook ran 13 times for 43 yards before leaving with a bruised chest. But Dorsey Levens hurt the Browns even more. He gained 48 yards in seven carries, often breaking tackles in the process.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D - This is based mainly on two fumbled kickoff returns, one apiece by James Jackson and Frisman Jackson. Neither Jackson has returned a kick this year, but were forced to when Andre King got hurt. The Eagles converted the turnovers into only three points, but it eliminated two offensive possessions. Derrick Frost had three punts inside the 20, but he had only a 30-yarder to the 22 before Philadelphia's game-winning drive. Phil Dawson extended his field-goal streak to a club-record 24 with a 38-yard field goal.
COACHING: B - Butch Davis and his staff get credit for devising a game plan to hang with the Eagles. The coaches continue to find a way to use William Green and Lee Suggs effectively, though they didn't do as much in the second half. The Browns managed to pass effectively despite being shorthanded at wide receiver. Most of the defensive breakdowns were more the fault of individual breakdowns than poor schemes. Davis was criticized in some quarters for not going for it on fourth-and-1 (a long 1) at Cleveland's 48 in overtime, but that was the percentage move. The one decision Davis probably regrets was cutting Dee Brown earlier in the week. Brown was the team's kickoff returner, and when Andre King went down, the Browns had to rely on inexperienced returners.


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PITTSBURGH STEELERS
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INSIDE SLANT
The Steelers like to think they were the ones who helped spring the New England Patriots into NFL history. Pittsburgh was favored by 10 points in the AFC Championship Game following the 2001 season, in Heinz Field.
The Patriots upset them 24-17 and went on to win their first of two Super Bowls in three years. Now they return to Pittsburgh riding a 21-game winning streak and the Steelers hope to give them a 21-gun salute - while burying the NFL's longest string of success.
"It's a big game and it will turn a lot of heads if we do well in this game," linebacker James Farrior said.
The Steelers already have turned some heads with their 5-1 record. They were long shots at best to win the AFC North. Now, coming off their bye week, the Steelers have a chance to pull into a tie for the best record in the conference. They are 3-point underdogs at home, an unusual position for them.
"We're just riding the boat, man," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We have the opportunity to come back and play the world champs in your own backyard ... what more can you ask for? Do we have a chance? Yes."
Coach Bill Cowher is smarting from two straight losses to New England coach Bill Belichick, once in that AFC Championship Game upset in Heinz Field and their rematch in New England to open the 2002 season, when the Patriots confirmed their domination 30-14.
Cowher already owns a victory over Bill Parcells this season and he'd like to put to rest the perception that he has been outcoached by Belichick.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- A team has never gone to the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback. Can Ben Roethlisberger be the first?
"I think this is a quarterback you can win Super Bowls with," said Gil Brandt, who headed the Dallas Cowboys' personnel department in the 1970s and 1980s and now works as a senior analyst for NFL.com. "I think he has that kind of talent. The guy's got talent, character, he's smart -- all the things you need to have to be successful. And you talk about a guy who can move."
-- Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw thinks Roethlisberger will be in the saddle for a long, long time in Pittsburgh.
"The key for Roethlisberger or any quarterback is to have the ability to make the difference between winning and losing, and winning championships," said Bradshaw, who played 14 seasons with the Steelers. "It looks like Roethlisberger may be that quarterback.
"I'm very excited about the fact it looks like the Steelers have someone they can depend on to lead the team for the next 14 years."
PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES
-- RB Duce Staley, whose ankle was injured slightly in the last game against Dallas and did not practice last week, did practice on Monday.
-- LB Kendrell Bell, who has not played since the first exhibition game, practiced for the first time this regular season on Monday. He had hernia surgery.
-- CB Willie Williams will make only his third start in the past three years when he opens on the left side for injured Chad Scott Sunday.
-- CB Ike Taylor will move back into the dime defense after being demoted early on. His reemergence comes out of necessity because of injuries to CB Chad Scott and S Mike Logan.
-- QB Ben Roethlisberger has a bruised knee from the team's last game in Dallas Oct. 17, but practiced on Monday and showed no ill effects from it.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD AFTER SIX GAMES:
PASSING OFFENSE: B - Pittsburgh ranks only 19th in the NFL in yards passing per game (179.8), but it has been efficient throwing the ball and not putting up big numbers because the Steelers have not trailed by much. They've thrown just four interceptions and rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is second in the AFC with a 100.1 passer rating (92.3 as a team, combined with Tommy Maddox's 67.4 in 1 1/2 games). The receivers have been making the tough catches and are not dropping many.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B - Duce Staley injected a much-needed threat into the ground game. He has 582 yards and a 4.6-yard average per carry. Jerome Bettis doesn't run much, but he has run for seven touchdowns in seven goal-line situations. Their overall average of 3.9 yards ranks just 23rd in the league but they are fifth in yards per game (135.5), and like their passing game, they've been effective.
PASS DEFENSE: B - The Steelers rank seventh overall in passing yards per game 183.8) and yards per play (6.34). They have 17 sacks, way up over last year, and six interceptions, including one for a touchdown by safety Troy Polamalu. They wanted to be more aggressive while holding down the numbers in yards and they have accomplished both of those goals after six games.
RUSH DEFENSE: B - They rank 11th in rushing yards allowed per game (103.3) and 10th in rushing average (3.9). They've also allowed only four rushing touchdowns in six games. Those numbers will be tested now that Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton is out for the season with a knee injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Pittsburgh has allowed too much on punt returns (10.0 average) and not gotten enough of its own (4.9). Kicker Jeff Reed has converted his last four field goal tries, two from 52 yards, after starting out 2-for-5. The kick coverage is excellent, allowing only 18.3 yards. They've neither scored nor given one up.
COACHING: B-plus - Both sides of the ball are playing much better than a year ago. Dick LeBeau's defense is more aggressive and making bigger plays while playing a consistent game. Ken Whisenhunt's offense has done away with a lot of the trickery and improved on the ground and in the air. Bill Cowher has taken a different approach to this season, keeping everything low-key and has injected a new enthusiasm into a team that slipped badly last season.
 


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