Steelers (7-2) at Ravens (2-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
RB Jamal Lewis: I could go on about matchups and trends and Lewis' historical success against the Steelers, but what's the point? We all know what's going to happen - Jamal will shuffle into the sea of bodies at the line of scrimmage and fall down. Two-yard gain. Jamal will put his head down and run hard - right into the sea of bodies at the line of scrimmage - and fall down. Two-yard gain. This is what it's come to. Pencil in 17 carries, 51 yards and no touchdowns. Rating: 2 out of 5.
RB Chester Taylor: Taylor was noticeably absent on offense, a development Brian Billick chalked up to Taylor missing practice for personal reasons and not being up to speed on the game plan. Apparently Musa Smith, who hadn't played in almost a year because of a broken leg, was better prepared. Methinks there's something more going on here. Billick says Taylor will be a big part of this week's game plan. I'll believe it when I see it. Rating: 1 out of 5.
QB Kyle Boller: Eight weeks off did wonders for Boller's standing with Ravens fans, who had started to believe that Boller was pretty good after watching Anthony Wright for seven-plus games. Then Boller took the field, and they remembered - Boller doesn't throw accurate passes, dumps the ball off on check-down routes far too often and has no presence in the pocket. Ah, just like the good old days. Rating: 1 out of 5.
WR Derrick Mason: D-Mase has to be wondering what he got himself into in Baltimore, particularly after Boller hung him out to dry with a high throw vs. the Jags last week. But to his credit, Mason continues to put up good numbers, and he had seven catches for 91 yards - his best stat line since Week 1 - last time out vs. the Steelers. Expect similar numbers in Week 11. A touchdown? Probably too much to ask. Rating: 2 out of 5.
TE Todd Heap: Heap is Boller's favorite target, but that doesn't matter if he's catching 3-yard passes. Heap hasn't fared well historically against the Steelers - he averages about 40 yards per game and has scored just once in eight meetings - but he remains the Ravens best hope of reaching into the end zone. Rating: 3 out of 5.
PK Matt Stover: The beneficiary of the Ravens red-zone blues, Stover kicked a season-high four field goals against the Steelers in Week 8. Rating: 3 out of 5.
Ravens defense: The Steelers aren't sure if Ben Roethlisberger (knee) will be able to play this week, but with Tommy Maddox as the alternative, my guess is he finds his way onto the field. This makes all the difference for the fantasy fortunes of Ravens defense - Roethlisberger is a capable caretaker who doesn't commit turnovers, while Maddox has been awful.
Regardless of who's taking snaps, Pittsburgh's running game will be the focus of its attack, with Duce Staley likely to take the lead for the third week in a row. Staley, who missed the first seven games of the season with a knee injury, but he has 32 carries for 140 yards in the past two games. He'll be spelled by Jerome Bettis, who ran for his second TD of the season last week despite gaining just 28 yards on nine tries. But Bettis hasn't run with enough frequency or consistency to warrant much fantasy fanfare, and Pittsburgh's tendency to turn to Bettis in the red zone limits Staley's appeal. Willie Parker continues to recover from an ankle injury and is listed a questionable.
I've knocked Hines Ward twice this season, and both times he's responded with a huge game. Seems that no matter who's at QB, Ward finds a way to make plays. He also has a frustrating habit of disappearing from the box score at times, but his success against the Ravens throughout his career is too much to ignore. He had a season-high eight catches for 85 yards vs. Baltimore in Week 8. Antwaan Randle El threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Ward last week, and the Steelers figure to find creative ways to involve the former college QB in the game plan this week, especially if Maddox gets the nod. Randle El hasn't caught more than three passes in a game this season, but he's always a threat to score on kick returns, making him an intriguing fringe play for Week 11. Rating: 2 out of 5.
Week 8 box score: Steelers 20, Ravens 19
Steelers: OUT: QB Charlie Batch (right hand). DOUBTFUL: S Mike Logan (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: LB James Farrior (knee); RB Willie Parker (ankle); QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee); T Marvel Smith (ankle); TE Jerame Tuman (ankle). PROBABLE: RB Jerome Bettis (quadricep); LB Andre Frazier (concussion); LB Joey Porter (knee); G Kendall Simmons (knee); RB Duce Staley (knee); CB Deshea Townsend (knee).
Ravens: OUT: LB Ray Lewis (thigh); S Ed Reed (ankle); G Keydrick Vincent (thigh). QUESTIONABLE: CB Dale Carter (thigh); CB Zach Norton (ankle); RB Musa Smith (calf); S B.J. Ward (hip). PROBABLE: T Orlando Brown (back); CB Samari Rolle (hip); TE Daniel Wilcox (ankle).