- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The Bus is in the garage, and now the Baltimore Ravens will be forced to catch Pittsburgh's smaller Ride-On version.
In today's battle for first place in the AFC North at Ravens Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without leading rusher Jerome Bettis. However, in the last two meetings between these teams, backup Amos Zereoue has inflicted plenty of damage on Baltimore's proud defense.
Zereoue, a fourth-year man from West Virginia, rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns against one of the league's best run defenses. With Bettis resting a strained MCL suffered in Monday's 28-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Zereoue poses a different problem than the bruising Bettis.
"Zereoue can do more in terms of bouncing it outside, so you have to hold the edge a little bit better," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It alters the game plan a little bit, but they use both, so you prepare for both anyway. It presents a bit of a challenge, but it's not something you're not prepared for or something that we haven't seen before."
Meanwhile, Ravens quarterback Chris Redman developed a stiff back overnight and is questionable for today's game. Veteran Jeff Blake could start in his place.
Also questionable is Ray Lewis. The Pro Bowl middle linebacker may play today after missing the team's past two games with a partially dislocated left shoulder.
Lewis practiced Friday, and the Ravens (3-3) insist Lewis is a game-time decision. But Steelers coach Bill Cowher expects to see No.52 in the lineup.
"Ray Lewis will play in this game, no question," Cowher said. "There's no question that we are going to prepare for him to play. He is, without doubt, one of the premier football players, offense and defense included, in the National Football League. He is a difference-maker. He certainly has a presence on the field. You better account for him."
After a 1-2 start, Cowher benched quarterback Kordell Stewart for Tommy Maddox, and the Steelers have gone 2-1 since. There is no better story than Maddox's. Originally a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1992, Maddux took a decade to win an NFL game as a starter.
Maddox's odyssey took him from the NFL to selling insurance to the Arena League to the short-lived XFL, where he was league MVP, and back to the NFL with the Steelers. Maddox was outstanding in the Colts game, completing 15 of 23 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
In 15 red-zone scoring opportunities since Maddox took over, the Steelers have scored 10 touchdowns and three field goals. Maddox, the AFC's sixth-leading passer with seven touchdowns and five interceptions, is getting the ball to wideouts Hines Ward (38 receptions for 431 yards and six touchdowns) and Plaxico Burress (27 receptions for 392 yards and two touchdowns) something Stewart struggled to accomplish. Around the goal line, the 6-foot-5 Burress is an inviting target.
"They're always good in the red zone because they are big and physical," Billick said. "At some point, really good teams can shove it down your throat in the red zone, and certainly Pittsburgh fits that profile. And when you add the dimension of a big receiver like Plaxico Burress, you can throw jump balls into the end zone and they're not going to call offensive pass interference regardless of what happens, so that's a tough combination."
By switching to a 3-4 defense this season, the Ravens have a better understanding how to deal with Pittsburgh's dominant front seven. However, that doesn't take into consideration how physically Steelers linebackers Jason Gildon, James Farrior, Kendrell Bell and Joey Porter play.
To win, the Ravens must control the line of scrimmage, throw the ball and pick up Pittsburgh's numerous blitz packages. In the Steelers' three losses, opponents spread their offenses and threw the ball downfield. The Ravens have the league's second-worst passing offense.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide