Ravens run offense vs. Steelers run defense
Edge - Even
The keys to the 3-4 defense are linebackers, and the Steelers lost three to injury last week, including Jason Gildon and Steve Conley for several weeks and Pro Bowl pick Greg Lloyd for the season. The Steelers still have some solid performers on the front line, but the Ravens have a solid-enough line to neutralize that group.
Ravens pass offense vs. Steelers pass defense
The Steelers don't have DL Ray Seals and Lloyd, both out for the season with injuries. Their absence decimates the pass rush, and pass protection is the Ravens' forte. The Steelers' secondary is suspect, and Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda knows he can take advantage of Pittsburgh's safeties. Rod Woodson still is shaking off a little rust from missing most of last season.
Steelers run offense vs. Ravens run defense
Pittsburgh has two solid runners in Erric Pegram and Jerome Bettis but they haven't found a rhythm with the offensive line. Look for the Ravens to crowd the line of scrimmage and make QB Mike Tomczak beat them. The Ravens' defensive line has played well, but DE Anthony Pleasant is questionable because of an ankle injury.
Steelers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense
Steelers WR Ernie Mills probably won't play until Oct.8, and WR Yancey Thigpen has yet to put together a couple of steady
weeks in practice. Andre Hastings is reliable and Kordell Stewart is always a threat, but Tomezak will start at quarterback, a position that was a problem last week in Pittsburgh's 24-9 loss to Jacksonville. The Ravens have two great safeties and a weakness at right cornerback.
Both teams have excellent kickers. Josh Miller averaged 39.5 yards per punt last week, and Norm Johnson was his reliable self, going 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts. But Ravens K Matt Stover is just as consistent, and P Greg Montgomery pinned the Raiders deep in their own territory several times last week.
Ravens C Steve Everitt vs. Steelers NT Joel Steed. If Everitt handles Steed, the Ravens' running game clicks. If Steed wins the battle, the Ravens still might be able to run, but they won't be as effective.
The Ravens seem to have a decided edge because the Steelers have been weakened by injuries. But it's Pittsburgh's home opener, and winning at Three Rivers Stadium is tough.
The Ravens probably will start slowly, but they should prevail in the end. QB Vinny Testaverde now has defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis -- the Steelers' former linebackers coach -- telling him all the tricks Pittsburgh used to pull on him. The Ravens by six.
Pub Date: 9/08/96