View Full Version : Ravens: Can't beat Steelers by mimicking Eagles

09-26-2008, 12:13 AM
Ravens: Can't beat Steelers by mimicking Eagles

Associated Press

Updated: September 25, 2008, 6:37 PM ET
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?sec ... id=3609523 (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=nfl&id=3609523)

PITTSBURGH -- One of the first phone calls Ravens coach John Harbaugh made a few days ago was to Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, even if it wasn't for the reason Pittsburgh Steelers fans might suspect.

Harbaugh was Philadelphia's secondary coach last year and special teams coach for nine seasons before being hired by Baltimore, and he talks to his former boss weekly.

Did the topic of the Eagles' wildly successful blitzing schemes during their 15-6 win over Pittsburgh last week come up? Without a doubt. Did Harbaugh immediately dig out old Eagles game plans to mimic for the Ravens' game in Pittsburgh? Almost certainly not.

That was last week and, as Harbaugh and his players know, that's very old news in the NFL.

"Of course, they're going to go back and correct whatever there is to correct," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said of the Steelers. "So if you go try to emulate the same thing, then you can get beat doing the same thing. I just think, truly, that we need to come out to play to our identity -- whatever that is."

Monday night's game for first place in the AFC North may go a long way toward establishing that Ravens identity -- whatever that is.

So far, the Ravens (2-0) resemble the team that was 13-3 in 2006 more than the one that was 5-11 last season, mostly because their defense gave division opponents Cleveland and Cincinnati virtually nothing. In beating the Browns 28-10 last week, the Ravens had five sacks, an interception return TD and another pickoff that created a touchdown.

No doubt that defense is causing some worry with the Steelers (2-1), who have scored only one touchdown and 16 points in two games since beating up on Houston 38-17 in their opener.

Ben Roethlisberger hasn't had time to throw or run -- he was sacked eight times by Philadelphia -- and now he's without the man who makes the offense go in Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker (knee). Parker will be replaced by rookie Rashard Mendenhall, whose only 10 NFL carries came in that Houston game.

Pittsburgh also will be without one of its most important defense players, Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton (groin). Baltimore will be missing safety Dawan Landry (neck).

"They don't care what we're looking like injurywise. We don't particularly care what they're looking like injurywise," Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "When it comes down to it on Monday night, all hands on deck."

The Steelers have warned Mendenhall what's coming, that Baltimore traditionally is Pittsburgh's most physical game all season, and the Ravens trash talk like heavyweight champions. Of course, he'll hear that -- and feel that -- for himself as the Steelers try for their 14th consecutive Monday night home win.

"They're going to come, they're coming hard and they're going to try to get into his head early in the game," Parker said.

Just as the Steelers will be trying to play mind games with Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who has never experienced what Heinz Field sounds like during an important night game.

So far, the Ravens have fed Flacco the playbook in small doses, content to let him carefully manage games and not try to beat anyone with his throwing.

"We've put him in situations where, supposedly, a rookie quarterback would not be able to handle it," said Troy Smith, whose injury cleared the way for Flacco to start. "He's done an incredible job. I'm rooting for him because, as of now, our success relies on him."

No doubt the Ravens must open up a few more pages in Flacco's playbook for the Steelers, whose own defense has been as just as punishing as Baltimore's. Pittsburgh's starters have allowed only one touchdown in three games and have six interceptions, only five fewer than they had last season.

Limiting Flacco to a few safe tosses in favorable down-and-distance situations, and constantly running Le'Ron McClain inside won't get it done against the Steelers. At the same time, the Ravens realize they can't ask Flacco to try to do too much for fear he'll throw the ball to Pittsburgh a couple of times.

"I'm not worried about what Joe will do," Mason said. "He's our quarterback. He's matured over the last two games. I think he's looking forward to going to Pittsburgh and playing in that environment."

The Ravens couldn't handle anything Pittsburgh did in a Monday night game last year, a 38-7 Steelers victory in which Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes in the first half. Baltimore won the rematch 29-24, though that end-of-season game meant little to the Steelers and they sat out a handful of regulars, including Roethlisberger.

Not that those games will matter Monday night.

"Everybody knows each other," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "You know each other's personnel. They know I'm going to try to hit them and we know they're going to try to hit us. It's one of those times when you go in the weight room and lift a couple of more times."