Steelers Team Report
Yahoo! Sports


The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rosy playoff history against division opponents and have beaten Baltimore twice in the postseason, but it hasn’t been easy for them against the Ravens.

The two teams split their regular-season games, each winning on the other’s field with late scores by three points. In fact, their past four regular-season games have been decided by three points and of their past six regular-season games the biggest winning margin was by four.

This is a rivalry among the best in sports. The teams have similar philosophies in how they play the game and their defenses have consistently been at or near the top of the league for a decade.

“They run the ball and they (have) a good defense—that’s a good formula to have, especially in the playoffs,” said linebacker James Farrior. “That’s why our games are so close, we feel we do the same thing.”

Touchdowns have been hard to come by when these two teams play but two late TDs decided each game this season. The Ravens moved 40 yards on four plays to score with 36 seconds left in Pittsburgh Oct. 3 for a 17-14 victory. The SteelersTroy Polamalu(notes) forced a Joe Flacco fumble late in Baltimore that led to the winning touchdown in a 13-10 final at Baltimore Dec. 5.

“We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Not much has changed, really, since the last time we played them.”

Both teams are relatively healthy. Baltimore Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed the first game and Ravens tight end Todd Heap left after the first series of the second game with a hamstring injury. All three are playing at the top of their game entering Saturday’s showdown.

The Steelers are especially concerned about Heap and some matchup problems he gives them.

“He’s a multi-talented guy,” Tomlin said. “He’s capable of splitting out and running receiver-type routes. He’s a matchup issue and problem for a lot of people. Are linebackers athletic enough to cover him? Are safeties, or DBs in general, big enough to cover him?”


• Two former Steelers greats are among the 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Center Dermontti Dawson, who made the all-1990s NFL team of the decade, was among the final 10 for last year’s class. Halfback Jerome Bettis reached the finals in his first year of eligibility.

• [HIGH-LIGHT]Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt would like to talk to former colleague Keith Butler, the Steelers’ linebackers coach, about becoming his defensive coordinator. However, a clause in Butler’s contract, signed in 2010, might prevent that because it identifies him as the successor to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau when he retires. Butler turned down a chance to become defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins after the 2009 season.[/HIGH-LIGHT]


Player Notes

• SS Troy Polamalu, who played a full game Jan. 2 after missing the previous two with an Achilles-related injury, will not practice early in the week but will play on Saturday and is in good health.

• CB Bryant McFadden, who has had a hamstring injury and did not practice last week, is “progressing nicely,” according to coach Mike Tomlin, although he predicted he will be limited in practice early in the week.

• LB Jason Worilds (knee) has been given a clean bill of health after missing the Jan. 2 game. He is one of the Steelers’ top special teams players and their top backup on the outside.

•[HIGH-LIGHT] DE Aaron Smith will have another scan to check out his torn triceps but will not play this week.[/HIGH-LIGHT] I am beginning to think they have wasted a roster spot for the whole season. If he was cleared to play after this week, what kinda football shape would he be in? Should have IR'ed him to be 100% healthy next season.

• RB Mewelde Moore (knee) has returned to practice after missing the Jan. 2 game and will play on Saturday.

Report Card Entering Playoffs

Passing Offense: B - Once Ben Roethlisberger returned from his four-game suspension, the passing game picked up and continued to grow with two rookies and one-second year player becoming the focus. Roethlisberger had another outstanding season with a 97.0 passer rating, just five interceptions and a healthy 8.23 yards per attempt. Mike Wallace led all AFC receivers with a 21.0 yard average per catch and had 10 touchdowns.

Rushing Offense: C-plus - The Steelers improved their production on the ground but remained inconsistent. Rashard Mendenhall had 324 carries, 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns but he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. They continued to have trouble punching in touchdowns.

Pass Defense: B-plus - Teams on occasion gouged them for yardage but there were again not a lot of big plays and this time they countered with 21 interceptions, fifth in the league. Three interceptions were returned for touchdowns. They also had 48 sacks. The collective passer rating against them was just 73.1.

Rush Defense: A - Pittsburgh had its best season statistically against the run than ever in its history both in total yards at 1,004 (better even than their former record which came in a 12-game season) and in average per game of 62.5, which led the NFL by nearly 30 yards per game. They allowed only five rushing touchdowns and no back topped 100 yards on them.

Special Teams: C - They did improve because they allowed just one return for a touchdown this season but not enough to rank in the top third of the league. They had one kickoff return for a touchdown and gave one up. They averaged just 6.1 yards per punt return and allowed 9.2. Shaun Suisham(notes) made 14 of his 15 field-goal tries but before him Jeff Reed made only 15 of 22.

Coaching: A—Not many picked the Steelers to win the AFC North and go 12-4, not when their quarterback was suspended the first four games and they lost their starting right tackle to injury in June. The distractions that Roethlisberger brought on, plus their missing the playoffs in 2009 did not make 2010 look like a playoff season for the Steelers. Coach Mike Tomlin was criticized for using Roethlisberger so much in the preseason rather than get other quarterbacks ready to play the first four games, but the Steelers went 3-1 in those four and when Roethlisberger returned, he was ready to go. So far, Tomlin’s best performance.