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10-03-2010, 02:51 AM
Steelers: It's downright defensive

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... nsive.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1424/2010/october/03/steelers-its-downright-defensive.html)
Sunday October 3, 2010 12:12 AM

PITTSBURGH — When it comes to playing the Ravens, the Steelers don’t need extra incentive. That’s especially true when we’re talking defense.

Both of these teams have long prided themselves on passionate, relentless, stingy and smash-mouth defense.

Here’s proof: Since the 2000 season, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have played better defense than anyone else in the NFL. In terms of fewest yards allowed over that span, the Steelers rank first at 280.5 yards per game while the Ravens rank second at 283.6. When it comes to fewest points allowed, the Ravens rank first at 17.0 pg while the Steelers are right behind at 17.3.

“It’s almost illegal the way (these two defenses) play,” said Ray Lewis, the legendary Ravens linebacker who’s one of the faces of the Baltimore/Pittsburgh rivalry. “We play with a chip on our shoulder, and they play with a chip on their shoulder. We like to get after people, and so do they.”

Today when the Ravens and Steelers renew the rivalry that Mike Tomlin calls “the best in the NFL,” it’s expected to be a defensive slugfest.

Of the 14 NFL games this week, oddsmakers believe Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh will have the lowest number of points scored. The over-under number is just 34 1/2.

“Troy (Polamalu) and I always say that when we play the Ravens, we aren’t playing their offense,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “We’re playing against their defense.”

In other words, the Steelers’ defense wants to be most responsible for victory today. It wants to outshine the Ravens’ defense.

Tomlin, ever the motivator, gave the Steeler defense more incentive to play harder today. Several times on Tuesday during his weekly press conference, he made it a point to say the Ravens have the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

In terms of yards allowed, Tomlin is correct. The Ravens are first (244.3 ypg), and the Steelers are sixth (278.7). But when it comes to points allowed, the Steelers are first (11.0 ppg) while the Ravens are fourth (13.7).

“Coach Tomlin has his tricky ways of getting us fired up,” Clark said.

Today, the team that plays the best defense will be the team that wins.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com