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hawaiiansteel
10-02-2010, 02:14 AM
Steelers won't miss Ravens' Reed

Saturday, October 02, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/images/201010/20101002reed1_330.jpg

Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Baltimore safety Ed Reed has 46 career interceptions.


Make no mistake, the Steelers are not feeling any empathy for the Baltimore Ravens, who are playing the first six games of the regular season without their big-play Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.

But, just as certain, they surely know how the Ravens must feel.

The Steelers had to do the same thing last season when Troy Polamalu, their big-play safety, missed 11 games with two separate knee injuries. When Polamalu played, he was spectacular, making diving interceptions and highlight-reel tackles, just as he has done in three games this season.

But, without him, the season went into free fall because the defense could not protect leads or prevent big plays. His absence, coupled with the loss of defensive end Aaron Smith, was largely responsible for a five-game losing streak that cost the Steelers a postseason appearance.

"It's a big hit for them," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "It's nice not to go against him."

Arians once called Reed "the best safety in the NFL," a comment he said got him in trouble because it upset some of Polamalu's teammates. Since then, he has backed off any such comparisons between Reed and Polamalu, even if he has not backed away from extolling Reed's talents, which are considerable.

Since 2002, no active player in the NFL has as many interceptions as Reed (46). But Reed does not just pick them, he returns them -- a long way, too. His interception return average of 27.3 yards is the best in NFL history for players with 30 or more career interceptions.

It is one of the reasons Reed has a club-record eight defensive touchdowns -- six interception returns, two fumble returns -- in his career.

"Ed is their guy back there," said quarterback Charlie Batch, who will make his second start in a row after throwing three first-half touchdowns in the 38-13 victory Sunday in Tampa, Fla. "He's kind of what Troy is to us back there. He gambles and, if he sees something, he's going to make a move."

Reed has not fully recovered from offseason hip surgery and will not play against the Steelers (3-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field.

He is on the team's physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning he cannot play the first six games of the regular season.

The loss of the six-time Pro Bowl player coupled with a season-ending injury to cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who led the team with four interceptions and 21 passes defensed in 2009, has put a dent in the quality of the Ravens' secondary.

The injuries have forced them to use cornerback Chris Carr, who had 10 career starts in five previous seasons, and safety Tom Zbikowski (four starts in two seasons) as replacements.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens do not have an interception in three games, one of three NFL teams that do not have a pick this season.

"It's huge," Arians said, talking about a secondary without Reed. "When you're throwing the ball down the field, you always had to know where Ed was, He'd pick off things from sideline to sideline, even if he was the backside safety. You always had to account for him with your eyes as the quarterbacks. These guys [who are replacing them] are good, but he's special. He and Troy are the only guys capable of doing what they do."

In Tampa, the Steelers knew they were going to attack the deep middle of the field because Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson was not playing because of a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. They knew his replacement, Cody Grimm, could not run with Mike Wallace, their big-play receiver who averages 26.7 yards per catch.

Sure enough, Wallace got behind Grimm for a 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter and beat cornerback Aqib Talib for a 41-yard touchdown in the second, even though the ball bounced off Talib's hands in the end zone.

Nobody has to remind Arians that Reed is missing from the Ravens' secondary.

"I call him the Raptor because there's nobody that fast who can get where he gets as fast as he gets there," Arians said.

"I hope he gets back soon because the game misses guys like that."

NOTES -- G Trai Essex has not practiced all week and will not play against the Ravens. ... Ravens RB Ray Rice, who has a deep bone bruise, practiced this week and is expected to play at Heinz Field. Rice had 229 yards rushing and 81 yards receiving in two games against the Steelers in 2009.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10275/10 ... z11BAhAPEu (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10275/1092162-66.stm#ixzz11BAhAPEu)

fordfixer
10-02-2010, 11:25 PM
Ravens have their Ward in Boldin
October 01, 2010 01:42 AM
http://www.heraldstandard.com/news_deta ... din-b.html (http://www.heraldstandard.com/news_detail/article/1636/2010/october/01/bravens-have-their-ward-in-boldin-b.html)

By: JIM WEXELL
Herald Standard

PITTSBURGH - The Baltimore Ravens didn't add a true deep threat in the offseason, but they did sign one of the best receivers in the game in Anquan Boldin.

Boldin is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching 8 passes for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns. His 20 receptions this season rank fourth in the AFC.

"He's like Hines Ward in the early days," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. "He's hard-nosed and is willing to throw his body around."

And he's productive. Boldin was the fastest receiver in NFL history to reach 400 catches, and then 500 catches, and last Sunday 600 catches, which Boldin reached in his 98th game - or four sooner than did the next fastest, Marvin Harrison.

But most comparisons with Boldin lean toward Ward. Both receivers are similar in size, both are physical, both run like tailbacks after the catch, and both catch the ball at a prolific rate.

Boldin will turn 30 on Sunday. From the season in which he turned 25 (2005) through this week, Boldin caught 449 passes for 5,807 yards (12.9 avg.) and 38 touchdowns.

During the same five-plus-year age span, Ward caught 459 passes for 5,573 yards (12.1 avg.) and 42 touchdowns.

The two would be identical, except that Ward has two Super Bowl rings and Boldin has none.

Of course, if it weren't for Santonio Holmes, that statistic would probably be identical as well. And that's where the Steelers find themselves this week: without Holmes.

While the Ravens have added a premier wide receiver for this series, the Steelers have lost one. And they lost a true Ravens killer, too.

In 9 career games against the Ravens, Holmes caught 35 passes for 641 yards (18.3 avg.) and 8 touchdowns.

Holmes caught touchdowns passes in each of the last 7 meetings. There were long touchdown catches - 33, 24, 38, 65, 59 - and short ones, such as the 4-yarder at the goal line late in 2008 that was reversed and gave the Steelers a big win.
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His 65-yarder in the AFC Championship game a month later was the Steelers' only offensive touchdown.

"We put him in good matchups," explained Ward. "When you saw Santonio score big, they blitzed the house and he's one-on-one on the backside."

Ward said that spot Sunday will be played by either Antwaan Randle El, Mike Wallace or Arnaz Battle. The key is reading the Ravens' defense.

"You can't replace a Santonio," Ward said. "He's had success over the years, but it's something we're trying to develop. Whoever that backside X (split end) is, if they all-out blitz and we catch them, we've got to be able to score. That's what made Santonio special."

The Ravens aren't playing as many 8-man fronts without Ed Reed, who's on the PUP list recovering from offseason hip surgery. They're in a Cover-2 (two deep safeties) alignment much of the time.

"They're a little softer in the secondary," Ward said. "It's almost like a bend-but-don't-break defense. They want you to move methodically down the field while getting pressure at the same time. Eventually they're hoping for mistakes to happen. They don't all-out blitz with Cover-0 anymore."

And perhaps that defensive change by the Ravens will lessen the loss of Holmes for the Steelers. But can the Steelers' secondary minimize the Ravens' addition of Boldin?

"He brings a little more physical nature to the game," said Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, who covered Boldin every day in practice for two years at Florida State and again last year with the Arizona Cardinals.

"Baltimore was already a physical offense. Bringing him in is another dimension, and we've got to get ready for it."