Steelers face hurting division foe

Associated Press
Published October 31, 2005

PITTSBURGH - When it comes to a virtual guaranteed victory, nothing beats the Steelers at home on a Monday night.

The Steelers are 10-0 in Monday home games under coach Bill Cowher, and haven't lost a Monday night home game since Chuck Noll was the coach in 1991.

The losing quarterbacks in those games, almost none of which were close, include Jim Kelly, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning - not exactly a positive sign for Baltimore's Anthony Wright as he tries to turn around a Ravens season that is fast slipping away.

With Pittsburgh's defense back on its game, Wright and the offensively deficient Ravens would seem to be catching the Steelers at the wrong time, even in an AFC North rivalry where records and resumes don't always mean much.

The Steelers sacked, harassed and upended Texans quarterback David Carr so many times during a 27-7 rout last month that Carr began yelling at his linemen. Similarly, the Steelers so disrupted Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer on Oct.23 that the league's top-rated passer couldn't lead a touchdown drive until the final two minutes of a 27-13 loss.

The same day, the Ravens failed to score a touchdown in a 10-6 loss to Chicago, stretching their streak without a touchdown to seven quarters.

And Baltimore goes into tonight's game in Pittsburgh with a six-game road losing streak and without the league's past two defensive players of the year, middle linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring) and safety Ed Reed (ankle).

"I don't know, for whatever reason the chemistry's not there," with the Ravens, Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "And they've got a bunch of great guys out there."

Baltimore's running game hasn't produced enough to keep defenses from focusing away from Wright's throwing; former 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis hasn't had a 100-yard game and was held to 93 yards on 39 carries the past two weeks.

For Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger isn't throwing because he doesn't have to. Roethlisberger, 17-1 as a regular-season starter, threw 14 times against Cincinnati as the Steelers ran for 221 yards, with Willie Parker getting 131. Roethlisberger has only 40 pass attempts in his past two starts.

Ravens linebacker Tommy Polley said the Steelers' passing isn't nearly as big a worry as their running, saying cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister will neutralize wide receivers Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Cedrick Wilson downfield.

"We feel comfortable with our two shutdown guys, Samari and Chris," Polley said. "I don't think we're too much worried about the outside. We're worried about the inside. It's going to be a physical game."

The Steelers' biggest worry might be disinterest. After their last-minute 24-22 Monday night win at San Diego three weeks ago, the Steelers were sloppy and mistake-prone in a 23-17 overtime loss at home to Jacksonville on Oct.16 - their second successive home loss. They are 1-2 at home after going 8-0 last season, also losing to New England 23-20 on Sept.25.