Steelers brace for Hurricane Jamal

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Chad Scott doesn't communicate with the media very often, but last week he had something to get off his chest.<br><br> Scott, the Steelers' oft-abused cornerback, pointed out that the team's pass defense ranked 11th in the NFL last season, yet it had been criticized too harshly, he felt, after the run defense (12th), pass offense (14th) and run offense (31st) finished worse in the NFL rankings.

"I don't understand why people don't realize that," Scott lamented.

Well, perhaps the people are ahead of the curve because the Steelers, after one game, rank 29th in the NFL in pass defense. However, Scott, the Steelers or their fans won't have to worry about that defensive sieve of a secondary this week. Not with the Baltimore Ravens on deck.

The Steelers, like the Ravens' last two opponents, will be keying Jamal Lewis when the two teams meet Sunday in Baltimore.

In the AFC playoffs last season, Lewis was held to a season-low 35 yards on 14 carries by a Tennessee Titans defense that often used nine men at the line of scrimmage.

The film must've played in the Cleveland offices last week because the Browns used a 4-4 alignment to hold Lewis to 57 yards on 20 carries. The performance would've been Lewis' low in a 2003 regular season in which he rushed for 2,066 yards.

The Ravens lost both games because their quarterbacks - Anthony Wright last season and Kyle Boller last week -- could not capitalize on defenses pulling out all the stops to contain Lewis.

Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said he's considering a similar game plan Sunday in Baltimore.

"Just because we have our scheme doesn't mean we can't implement others," Cowher said. "We'll look at it and see if it can work into what we want to do, but certainly for the most part we'll stick with what we've done and try to play our defense and recognize it all starts with trying to stop him."

Last year, in splitting two games with the Ravens, the Steelers held Lewis to 69 yards on 15 carries in the opening-day win, but allowed him to rush for 114 yards on 27 carries in the curtain-closing loss.

Obviously, stopping Lewis means stopping the Ravens. But the Browns' task was made easier last week by the absence of Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden.

"It is hard to say that you are not going to miss arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the game today," Cowher said. "Getting him back this week, which I understand they will have, will be a big lift to them and to Jamal and that running game. That was certainly below the standards that they have set for themselves. But getting him back will definitely be a big lift for them."

Ogden's replacement last week, Ethan Brooks, allowed three sacks and a forced fumble by Browns defensive end Kenard Lang. Ogden missed the game with a sprained knee but expects to return Sunday for the Ravens' home opener.

While the Browns concentrated on stopping Lewis, they left their cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage with the Ravens' wide receivers and Boller completed 22 of 38 passes for 191 yards and two interceptions. His back-up is former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart. Cowher said he won't prepare his defense for the mobility of Stewart in particular.

"It is more of an awareness that you have of who the quarterback is," Cowher said. "But I don't think you have to do anything special."

Much of the damage to the Steelers' pass defense last Sunday was done on two plays. Strong safety Troy Polamalu bit on a pump fake and was beaten for a 58-yard touchdown pass to Doug Gabriel. Nickel safety Mike Logan was similarly fooled on a fourth-and-12 touchdown pass to Alvis Whitted of 38 yards.

"We were out of position at times," Cowher said. "I talked to (Polamalu) this morning. I don't want him to quit jumping routes. He's just got to learn from that and you've got to play a receiver like a corner plays a receiver in that situation. You can't be just looking at the quarterback, and he'll learn from that. I've been around too long to watch safeties sit back there and play half the field and be afraid to jump things. I can go back there and play half the field. I want players to be special."

Polamalu will also be the defender most often locked up with Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who led his team with 57 catches last year, 18 more than runner-up Travis Taylor.

"That's why Troy's here. That's his strength. He's a good coverage guy," Cowher said. "I told him he's here for Heap and (Kellen) Winslow. Those are two guys right now in our division who are pretty good tight ends. And at times they're going to put Todd out there and we'll have corners lined up on him. He is without a doubt a premier tight end and he is a go-to guy for them. Kevin Johnson's a good receiver, no question about it. But again it starts with stopping Jamal Lewis."

NOTES - Inside linebacker Kendrell Bell is questionable with a groin injury. Back-up nose tackle Chris Hoke developed a staph infection over the weekend and is doubtful. Listed as probable are guard Alan Faneca (finger) and cornerback Chad Scott (groin). … On Monday, the Steelers placed back-up strong safety Ainsley Battles on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. They replaced him with Russell Stuvaints, who'd been on the New England practice squad.

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