- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. There is not a player on the Baltimore Ravens' second-team defense that middle linebacker Ray Lewis would trade for any of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive starters.
Lewis, who leads the NFL with 87 solo tackles, is not impressed by the Steelers' top-rated defense and is even less impressed by the AFC Central-leading Steelers' trash talk.
After practice yesterday, Lewis was asked for his take on comments by Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, who said Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Takeo Spikes is better than or as good as Lewis, and that Lewis benefits from a better supporting cast.
Lewis' reply to "the Bus"?
"Tell him to tape that groin up and come see me at PSINet [Stadium]," Lewis said of Bettis, who is listed as questionable for Sunday's showdown. "They have to come here in four days regardless of whatever comes out of their mouths. I've always said you don't have to respect me, but don't ever disrespect us. There's no person on my first-team or second-team that I would trade for any of their starters."
This is a huge game for both teams. The Super Bowl champion Ravens (8-4) are two games behind the surprising Steelers (10-2) with four games left. If the Ravens are to capture the division, they have to win this game. A Steelers' victory would sew up the title for the black and gold.
Even Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh's flashy second-year receiver, ratcheted up the rhetoric after last Sunday's 18-7 win over the New York Jets.
"We beat those guys up physically," Burress said of the Ravens' 13-10 victory over the Steelers on Nov. 4. "We know it. All we have to do is go down there and beat them up this time."
Lewis said Burress doesn't know what he's talking about.
"The last time I looked, [Burress] caught one touchdown pass [against the Ravens]," Lewis said. "First of all, he doesn't even play a physical ballgame, to even talk about the trenches. He's not down in the trenches. He's not taking the blows his teammates take. So, how does he know what physical is about?"
In the first meeting, Pittsburgh kicker Kris Brown missed four field goals. The Steelers think an asterisk should be placed next to the game because their kicker let the team down after it amassed 348 yards total offense.
Shannon Sharpe, the Ravens' record-setting tight end, said Bettis might have been misquoted about Lewis. Regardless, Sharpe offered his own analysis on which middle linebacker he thinks is better.
"I know Takeo personally because we've worked out the past couple of years in the offseason, but Takeo is a Chevy and Ray is a Bentley. Now which one would you rather have?" Sharpe said. "To compare Takeo Spikes to Ray Lewis is like comparing a homeless man to Bill Gates. I wouldn't make [Lewis] mad. That's like saying 'Dude, Where's My Car?' was just as good as 'Titanic.'"
Sharpe, the NFL's all-time leader among tight ends in receptions (678) and yardage (8,457), said he doesn't mean to slight Spikes, but, "Spikes is no Ray Lewis."
Sharpe said he won't even dignify Burress' comments with a response, but added, "If Hines Ward would have said that, as physical as he plays the game, OK, then I can live with that, but Plexiglass? No."
Note
The Ravens signed wide receiver/punt returner Bobby Newcombe and linebacker Anthony Sessions to the practice squad. Newcombe is a former Nebraska quarterback who moved to wide receiver last season with the emergence of Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman this year. Sessions signed last spring with the Washington Redskins as a rookie free agent. To make room on the practice squad, the Ravens released defensive lineman Corey Callens and defensive back Delvin Hughley.


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