Steelers ignore Ravens' inept play

PITTSBURGH – The voice boomed from the open meeting room just across from the media center at the Steelers' practice facility.

"Don't believe what you're seeing here on film," one of the assistant coaches told his defensive players. "This quarterback can get away from the rush and he has a very strong arm."

But, don't believe what you see … or hear … or read. All week, the Steelers' coaching staff has had to sell the Steelers on the potential of the Baltimore Ravens. They're that bad.

"They've had some good games, some good drives," countered cornerback Deshea Townsend. "Against Cleveland the first half they had some very impressive drives. They're averaging 300 yards a game on offense. That's not bad."

Good drives? A good half? Not bad? It's the best the Steelers could muster up about a Ravens offense that ranks dead last in the NFL in scoring.

Of course, the Ravens have had lousy offenses in the past but still won because of defense that had a knack for turning the field around quickly.

However, Ray Lewis is out and will be replaced by Tommy Polley at middle linebacker. Polley is a rangy 230-pounder with a reputation for not wanting to take on blocks.

Jarret Johnson, a 285-pound defensive end, will also be a target of the Steelers' running game. Johnson will replace Anthony Weaver, who was downgraded from questionable to doubtful Saturday with a lingering toe injury.

Perhaps the greatest loss to the Ravens' defense is safety Ed Reed, last year's Defensive Player of the Year. Reed has a knack for making game-turning plays, on defense and special teams. He'll be replaced by Chad Williams.

Offensively, the Ravens' perpetually poor passing game has not been helped by their running game this year. Former 2,006-yard rusher Jamal Lewis, 26, has gained only 326 yards on 113 carries (2.9 avg.) and this week admitted he's not running as hard in order to remain healthy for his pending free agency. In the last year of his contract, Lewis is making $3.5 million in salary.

Lewis is missing his fullback, Alan Ricard, who was placed on IR this week, and his line is playing poorly.

The passing game has regressed. Third-year starter Kyle Boller hyperextended his right big toe and sprained his ankle in the opener. He's been replaced by former Steelers cast-off Anthony Wright, who's been sacked 14 times in five-plus games. Wright has completed a high percentage of his passes (63 percent), but at a clip of only 6.1 yards per attempt to rank 26th of 31 NFL quarterbacks. By comparison, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger averages 10.1 yards per pass attempt.

Ravens coach Brian Billick insists Wright will remain in the game while healthy over back-up Kordell Stewart. Boller was ruled out of the game on Saturday.

In spite of mounting evidence that the 2-4 Ravens are bad and getting worse, the 4-2 Steelers are convinced a tight game is on tap tonight at Heinz Field.

"I don't think they're as bad as everybody thinks they are," said defensive end Aaron Smith. "They have a lot of pride. With the players they have I can't imagine they're as bad as everybody says they are."

The people saying that include those who watch them the most. The Baltimore Sun was replete with criticism this week after the Ravens lost to rookie quarterback Kyle Orton and the Chicago Bears last Sunday, 10-6.

"The Ravens are at a point where if they aren't careful, they could fall apart," wrote columnist Mike Preston. "Is the word collapse on your lips?"

It's not on Joey Porter's lips. The Steelers' emotional leader was asked if a good spanking tonight might send the Ravens into complete disarray.

"It's possible. Anything's possible," Porter said. "It's going to fall back to the coaches. It's going to be up to him to keep that team together. But I'm not worrying about what's going to happen to them after the game. I just want to make sure they come here Monday night and don't get a victory. We need to have this victory. It's a conference game and we have to re-establish the home-field advantage when you come into Pittsburgh. And I think this would be a big game to start re-establishing [the fact] that when you come into Pittsburgh, it's going to be a hard place to win."

Steel City Insider Top Stories