Pick 'em game: Ravens looking to intercept Roethlisberger
November 23, 2006 8:36pm CST
This doesn't look like a good matchup for the Pittsburgh Steelers: the quarterback who leads the NFL in interceptions going against a Baltimore Ravens defense that is the league's best in picking off passes. Ben Roethlisberger has never played a full game in Baltimore, but he understands the challenge that awaits Sunday from a Ravens defense that has 18 interceptions. He has thrown 17 himself, only three fewer than he had in his first two seasons combined. So it's not surprising that coach Bill Cowher cautioned his quarterback about trying to force throws or gambling he can complete a pass into heavy coverage. "Coach said that an incomplete pass might be the best play we have this week," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "An incompletion is not going to hurt you. It's hard to tell a quarterback to be smart and not throw a pick. I just have to be patient and hopefully we can establish the run game and get ready to hit some big plays." Not many teams have done that to the Ravens (8-2), who have two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year in safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis. Reed is challenging to play against because he reacts so quickly to what a quarterback does, even a throw across the field. "Ed Reed is a guy who really likes to anticipate plays," Roethlisberger said. "We're going to have to be patient and take our shots when we get them. He's like their Troy Polamalu, he's always around the ball." What the Ravens don't know is whether they will be facing the Roethlisberger who threw three interceptions in the first half in Cleveland last week or the one who passed for 225 yards in the fourth quarter while leading three long scoring drives. That 24-20 victory, the second in a row by the Steelers (4-6), put them on the fringe of the AFC wild-card race. But a loss in Baltimore would leave them five games down in the AFC North race with five to play and effectively end any chance they have of repeating as Super Bowl champions. "It's been like the playoffs for us for a while now," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "The way we started, it's how we have to approach every game." The turnovers have been a major problem, with 13 in the last four games. Think that didn't get the Ravens' attention? "They do a lot of things on defense," Roethlisberger said. "In our walkthrough, Coach gave us a bunch of different looks. It was confusing just walking through. It's going to be a challenge for us." So will running the ball against a defense that has allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the league. The Steelers ran for 57 yards against the Browns, partly because they were forced to throw while rallying from a 10-point deficit. The Ravens held Atlanta's running backs to 50 yards last week in Baltimore's 24-10 victory. Roethlisberger missed last season's 16-13 loss in Baltimore with a knee injury, and played only a half the season before that while replacing the injured Tommy Maddox. The Steelers lost 30-13, their only regular-season loss that year, and Maddox never got his job back. "I don't remember much. It's a big blur," Roethlisberger said. "Guys were moving a lot faster than I thought they could." No doubt it will help Roethlisberger if wide receiver Hines Ward can play. Ward (hyperextended knee) missed part of practice Wednesday and remains questionable.