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Ravens: As always, Steelers to focus on stopping Rice

OWINGS MILLS - Often stacking eight defenders near the line of scrimmage, the Steelers neutralized Ray Rice and the Ravens' running game.

With Pittsburgh's defense keying in on him, Rice was limited to just 40 yards on 20 carries during Baltimore's 13-10 win against the Steelers in Week 11.

Rice will face the same Pittsburgh defense this weekend, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said slowing the Ravens' multi-dimensional running back will once again be a top priority.

"For us, it starts with Ray Rice," Tomlin said. "He is their featured runner. He is also a big part of their passing game. He is a talented player. He is a back for all situations - first, second, third down - and last week showed us fourth down. So, it starts there for us."

Rice ran for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers amid Baltimore's 35-7 victory in last year's season-opener, but has otherwise found yards on the ground hard to come by against Pittsburgh. Rice has been held to just 167 combined rushing yards in his other five games against the Steelers since 2010, including one playoff game.

He was limited to 43 yards or less in each of those five meetings, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry in those five games.

Led by middle linebackers Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh's defense is tied for fifth-best in the NFL against the run and is limiting opposing ball carriers to an average of just 3.7 yards per carry.

Only four of the Steelers' 11 opponents have had a running back eclipse 69 yards on the ground against Pittsburgh's defense.

"They're just an aggressive bunch that gets after you," Rice said.

But even aside from just the Week 11 game against the Steelers, Rice's production has been limited for much of the last two months.

Running behind an offensive line that's struggled to consistently create holes, Rice averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in the five games leading up to this past weekend's win against the Chargers.

"Have I seen the holes I've wanted? Not exactly," Rice admitted.

But he noted that the offense is "getting better each week" and praised the group for the push it got in the running game against a stout San Diego front seven this past weekend.

Rice rushed for 97 yards against the Chargers, his fourth-largest rushing output of the season.

Baltimore totaled 127 yards as a team as physical rookie running back Bernard Pierce chipped in with 34 against the NFL's third-ranked unit against the run.

"Each week we don't panic," Rice said. "We go out there, we run our plays. Last week we didn't face a slouch defense and we ... did get over 100 [yards].

"That's something that each week you take pride in. We had some really good holes."

Rice will hope for similar room to run against the always-stingy Steelers rush defense.

"Ray did a good job running the ball [against the Chargers], and hopefully that continues this weekend," Baltimore left tackle Michael Oher said. "Hopefully we can have some success in the running game."

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