Notebook: Ravens in freefall?

PITTSBURGH – The Baltimore Ravens have their typical inept offense under coach Brian Billick, but their second-ranked defense will be without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on Monday night at Heinz Field.

It's little wonder the 4-2 Steelers are favored to beat the 2-4 Ravens by 10 points.

The Ravens are also expected to be without their best defensive lineman, Anthony Weaver, who is questionable with a toe injury.

Lewis, Reed and Weaver represent 26 percent of the Ravens' tackles, even though Weaver and Reed have already missed three games combined.

Lewis hurt his thigh two games ago against the Cleveland Browns. He missed practice the following week, played Sunday against the Chicago Bears, but left the game. Replacing him in the middle will either be special-teams ace Bart Scott or former St. Louis Rams linebacker Tommy Polley.

Reed missed Sunday's game with a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss at least another month. He'll be replaced by Chad Williams, although cornerback Dale Carter took a few snaps at safety against the Chicago Bears.

Even with their star players, the Ravens have forced only two turnovers this season and have lost eight of their last 12 games, including a 20-7 loss in Pittsburgh last Dec. 26. The Ravens are also riding a 6-game road losing streak.

"They're not a very good football team," wrote Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston. "Actually, they're one of the five worst in the NFL after having lost to the Lions, Titans and Bears. Oh, my."


Steelers guard Alan Faneca was asked what he remembers about soft-spoken Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright, who played for the Steelers in 1999.

"Ack, ack," Faneca said.

Ack, ack?

"Ack, ack. That was my man's snap count: ack, ack. They let him go with his own snap count because that's what he wanted to do. Instead of a color and a number, color and a number, he went ack, ack, 240, 240."

Did it throw everybody off?

"Everybody hated it."

Wright has started 11 games for the Ravens since 2003. In five starts this season, since Kyle Boller's injury, Wright has a passer rating of 73.2.

His back-up is former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart. What kind of Halloween scene would Stewart make by playing for the Ravens at Heinz Field on Monday?

"I don't know," said Hines Ward. "I just hope he doesn't come out and give them a spark, come out and eat us up. I'm friends with Kordell. I always wish him much success, just not against us."

Ward worked out with Stewart during his holdout this summer. He was asked if there's truth to the rumor that Stewart's arm is shot.

"I don't know where all these things come from," Ward said. "He looked fine to me. He was hurting my hand every time he threw it. People are always going to say stuff, but Kordell's a great guy. I had a lot of success with Kordell."


Ward didn't practice Wednesday, but said his hamstring is feeling better and that he can now run all of his routes.

Also missing practice for the Steelers were Jerome Bettis (knee), C Jeff Hartings (knee), WR Antwaan Randle El (foot), CB Deshea Townsend (hamstring) and DE Kimo von Oelhoffen (shoulder).

Because the game will be played Monday night, the Ravens did not practice Wednesday.


The Steelers signed TE Matt Kranchick back to the practice squad and released QB Rod Rutherford. Kranchick had been waived the previous day from the active roster to make room for safety Russell Stuvaints, who was added because of Mike Logan's hamstring injury. Logan will miss four to six weeks.

"I've been playing flag football in McKeesport every Sunday at the high school, trying to stay in shape," said Stuvaints, who's been worked out by several NFL teams the last few weeks.

"I was getting so many workouts and flying around, I didn't know if it was making me stronger or weaker. I guess it made me stronger."


Clark Haggans on how long it will take him to "get back up to speed" Monday after missing the last three games with a groin injury:

"The first time you get hit in the mouth and your mouthpiece comes flying out. That'll wake you up in a heartbeat."

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