Next up for run defense? Mendenhall and the Steelers

Since the Ravens drafted linebacker Ray Lewis in 1996 to coordinate the middle of the defense, the defense has allowed 100-yard rushers in consecutive games just twice.

The first time was 13 years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis and the Miami Dolphins' Karim Abdul-Jabbar did it. The second time took place last season against the Cincinnati Bengals' Cedric Benson and the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson.


So after the Cleveland Browns' Peyton Hillis gashed the defense for 144 yards, what can the Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall expect next Sunday?

Time will tell, but Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce conceded that the performance against Hillis was both a concern and a hiccup.


"It's a little bit of both," he said. "It's something you have to fix, but you have to wait until the next game to fix it completely. But they [the Steelers] are going to see some stuff. They're going to see some weaknesses, and they're going to see what worked and what didn't work. So we'll see what happens."

The Browns had entered Sunday ranked 21st in the NFL in rushing, averaging 88.5 yards per game. But after a few successful gains, the players said they began to notice a change in the Ravens.

"We felt it with their body language," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "They weren't jumping around and screaming. We were running the ball directly at them. I thought we did a good job of that. We kind of hit them in the mouth because they are the type of team that thrives on stopping the run and getting you in third and longs. They kind of do exotic blitzes and looks and try to make you panic. But we were able to run the ball directly at them. We kind of had them on their heels. They were kind of searching for answers. We have to be able to make those plays down the stretch and execute those."

With quarterback Charlie Batch expected to start in place of Ben Roethlisberger who will serve the last of his four-game suspension next Sunday, Pittsburgh will likely lean on Mendenhall to power the offense. And Mendenhall has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the season's first three games and scored two touchdowns.

Shoring up the run defense figures to be a point of emphasis during the upcoming week.

"Anytime you rush for that many yards, we're going to be watching the film this week," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Probably until six o'clock in the afternoon."

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