Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh SteelersPosted on October 30, 2007
Week Nine: Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Radio: 98 Rock
Pittsburgh and Baltimore are meeting for the 24th time overall, with all but one game taking place in the regular season. The Steelers have won eight of 12 meetings in Pittsburgh and five straight over the Ravens after Baltimore became the first visitor to win in Heinz Field in 2001. Baltimore broke the streak with a 31-7 Christmas Eve win at Heinz last season.
On Monday nights, the Steelers are 33-22 overall and 20-5 at home, having won their last 11 home Monday games. As part of the team's 75th anniversary celebration, the Steelers will wear their throwback uniforms Monday night for the second time this season.
Pittsburgh is ranked fourth in the league offensively. The team has averaged 26.7 points per game and has been able to hold onto the ball for more than 34 minutes per contest.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 14 times in the two meetings with the Ravens last year, but he is completing 63 percent of his passes so far this year with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, for a rating of just over 101, one of only four passers in the league to be over the century mark.
Running back Willie Parker is averaging 4.2 yards per carry through six games, one of only two backs in the league averaging more than 100 yards per contest. Fullback Najeh Davenport is averaging more than 7 yards per carry with three scores.
Wideout Hines Ward is the Steelers’ all-time leader by receptions but has been slowed by injuries this year. The Super Bowl XL Most Valuable Player could be ready to play Monday night. Former Virginia tight end Heath Miller leads the team with 22 catches. Ohio State product Santonio Holmes is right behind with 20. Both have four touchdowns. Tight end Matt Spaeth has four catches all year, but three of them are for touchdowns.
The offensive line of Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca, Sean Mahan, Kendall Simmons and Max Starks has allowed 16 sacks so far.
The Steelers defense ranks as the NFL's best overall. Pittsburgh has allowed only one 100-yard rusher in its past 51 games. With 91 points allowed through seven games, Pittsburgh is the only team in the entire league to have yielded fewer than 100 points.
Linebackers Clark Haggans and James Farrior lead a balanced pass rush with four each of the team's 19 sacks. Two more linebackers have three sacks each, former Raven James Harrison -- the team's leading tackler with 37 total stops -- and Michigan rookie LaMarr Woodley, a teammate of Ravens reserve Prescott Burgess and de facto replacement for the traded Joey Porter.
Defensive end Aaron Smith, who just saw his consecutive games streak get snapped by injury, has two sacks. Brett Keisel starts on the other side with three-time Pro Bowl pick Casey Hampton on the nose. Inside linebacker Aaron Foote has two fumble recoveries, part of Pittsburgh's plus-3 turnover ratio.
Cornerback Ike Taylor is second on the team with 30 tackles and leads with two of the team's six interceptions. The starter on the other side, Deshea Townsend, is tied with safety Troy Polamalu for 19 tackles.
Placekicker Jeff Reed has hit nine of his 10 field goal tries this year and all 19 points-after touchdowns for 46 points. His only miss was from beyond 50 yards. Last year, Reed missed seven field goals, all at home due to the team's natural grass surface and fluky winds.
It's early November, but this is the underachieving Ravens' most crucial game in a long time. A loss could portend a bad season.
Issue 2.44: November 1, 2007