Ravens-Steelers PreviewBy TAYLOR BECHTOLD , STATS Writer
While the Baltimore Ravens are looking to solve the problems that have contributed to their poor start, the Pittsburgh Steelers hope another win can provide a springboard to their turnaround.
The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens will try to avoid their worst seven-game start in eight years Sunday when they visit a Pittsburgh team looking to continue to emerge from its worst start in 45 years.
After losing two of three - including last Sunday's 19-17 home defeat against Green Bay - Baltimore (3-3) is on the verge of falling below .500 through its first seven games for the first time since 2005.
The Ravens haven't been able to get anything established on the ground. Since averaging 118.8 rushing yards during their championship season, they've struggled with 72.7 yards per game - sixth-fewest in the NFL.
Two weeks after attempting a franchise record-low nine rushes for 24 yards, Baltimore could muster only 47 yards against the Packers.
They're averaging 2.7 yards per carry, better than only Jacksonville.
"There's a lot that goes into it," coach John Harbaugh said. "There are many different things that we've looked at over the last few days to try to improve. We definitely have the men to do the job. We've got the talent up front and at running back."
Ray Rice is the only player in Ravens history to have four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but that's a streak that will come to an end at his current pace. The two-time All-Pro is averaging a career-low 2.8 yards per carry after finishing with 34 yards on 14 carries Sunday.
Rice, who insists he's recovered from a hip flexor strain that sidelined him in Week 3, has totaled 115 yards while averaging 2.3 per carry in his last three visits to Pittsburgh, including the 2011 AFC divisional playoffs.
"You can't consistently run for two yards a carry and be what you want to be as an offense," Harbaugh said.
The Steelers (1-4) had allowed opponents to run for at least 100 yards in four straight losses before limiting the New York Jets to 83 yards on 20 carries in Sunday's 19-6 victory.
At 2 1/2 games behind first-place Cincinnati, Pittsburgh hopes to begin its climb back from the AFC North basement with its first back-to-back wins in 13 games.
"We're not going to quit," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Obviously, it wasn't the start we wanted, but the men in this locker room believe that there's a chance that something great can come out of this if we all work towards it."
After committing 11 turnovers during their worst start since opening 0-6 in 1968, the Steelers didn't have any against the Jets. They also had a pair of takeaways after creating none in their first four contests.
Pittsburgh will try to continue that effort against the rival Ravens, whose Super Bowl MVP quarterback is struggling to make plays with the running game grounded and a lack of weapons with Jacoby Jones battling a knee injury and Anquan Boldin gone to San Francisco.
Though Joe Flacco has thrown for an average of 319.3 yards in his last three games, he's completed 55.2 of his attempts with six picks while being sacked 11 times.
Flacco posted a 68.5 passer rating while throwing for 352 yards with one score and one pick as Baltimore split a pair of meetings with the Steelers last season.
"Obviously, they're a talented, capable team led by superstars in all three phases and they're defending world champs," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "They don't need an endorsement from me."
While he didn't face Baltimore last season because of injuries to his shoulder and ribs, Ben Roethlisberger has completed just 54.9 percent of his attempts for an average of 259.8 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions in his last six regular-season meetings with the Ravens.
Roethlisberger connected on 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions Sunday, ending a four-game streak with at least one pick.
The banged-up Steelers, however, won't have Levi Brown for the rest of the season after the new acquisition tore his triceps while warming up to make his debut. Kelvin Beachum, who struggled early before playing better in the second half, is expected to get another start at that spot.
Pittsburgh also lost tight end David Johnson for the year with a wrist injury, while rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones has a concussion. Jones is listed as questionable.
"We're still taking precautions and going through the steps and trying to do the right things in the process for this type of situation," Jones said. "So, we're just taking it slow. We've still got two more days before the game. We'll see what they say."
If Jones can't start, veteran Jason Worilds is expected to reclaim the role that he lost in Game 2 at Cincinnati.
Baltimore linebacker Josh Bynes has been ruled out after having surgery on an infected finger. He's started all six games and ranks fourth on the team with 31 tackles.
The Steelers will try to avoid their fourth straight regular-season home loss to the Ravens.