1. Stay intense. Heading into Sunday's football game against the first-place
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) at M&T Bank Stadium, the last-place Baltimore Ravens
(2-7) are trying to summon the intensity they mustered in a hard-fought, 20-19
loss Oct. 31 at Pittsburgh. Since that gutty performance, though, the Ravens
haven't been nearly as competitive or aggressive. Especially on offense, where
they haven't scored a touchdown in 11 quarters with only one in their last 19.
The scoring drought has accompanied a few troubling holes in the Ravens' usually
reliable defensive armor. Several players have talked about the need to stick
together and not point fingers, which is the usual recitations of teamwork in a
difficult situation. With job security and contracts on the line along with
the intangible factor of pride and the simple fact that this is traditionally a
great rivalry, the Ravens ought to be more than sufficiently amped up. If
they're not, if they lose their 12th out of their last 16 games and fifth in a
row, if they fade away in their home stadium which may be invaded by thousands
of Terrible Towel waving Steelers interlopers, it will be a sad commentary on a
season gone awry.
2. Contain Hines Ward. The talkative all-time Steelers leading receiver has a way of infuriating the Ravens with his clutch catches, rugged downfield blocking and verbal barbs. In 15 career games against Baltimore, Ward has caught 61 passes for 757 yards and six touchdowns. He helped doom the Ravens' chances in the loss in Pittsburgh with a game-high eight catches for 75 yards.
3. Get the football to Chester Taylor. The third-down back missed practice last week for personal reasons and was limited to special-teams duties in a 30-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Today, he's expected to have a much more substantial role on offense. He averages five yards per carry, two more than stuck-in-neutral starter Jamal Lewis. There's also $3 million good reasons, Taylor's 2005 compensation, to get him more involved.
4. Use maximum protection schemes. The Steelers' pass rush is formidable and this offensive line could use some assistance from backs and tight ends after surrendering four sacks against the Jaguars. Especially since Brian Rimpf is starting at right guard and Tony Pashos may need to start at right tackle because of Orlando Brown's sore back stemming from a minor car accident.
5. Win the turnover battle. The Ravens' lowly status reflects their terrible showing in this critical aspect of the game. They are tied for 30th in turnover margin with a minus-11 differential. In contrast, the Steelers are tied for second in the NFL with a plus-10 differential that includes 11 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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