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Ravens vs. Steelers

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LET’S GET DEFENSIVE: The NFL’s top two defenses will square off this weekend when No. 1 Pittsburgh (241.9) visits No. 2 Baltimore (253.4) in a big AFC North matchup.

 

Pittsburgh has not yielded 300 total net yards to an opponent in any of its 13 games this season. If the Steelers hold the Ravens to 300 or fewer, they will match the 1973 Los Angeles Rams for the most such consecutive games to start a season. The Rams did so in all 14 games of 1973, which came before the 16-game schedule.

 

Baltimore has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 consecutive games – the longest active such streak in the NFL.

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-4) (Sunday, CBS, 4:15 PM ET)

STORYLINE: Protecting the lead…and going for it.

 

That’s the story for this one Sunday. First-place Pittsburgh holds a one-game edge over Baltimore in the AFC North, so a win by the Ravens will tighten things even more.

 

“We want to be division champs,” says Ravens rookie head coach JOHN HARBAUGH, who has led the club from a 5-11

finish last season to its 9-4 mark. “We’re not backing down from the fact that that’s our goal.”

 

Both teams are on streaks. The Ravens have won seven of their past eight with rookie QB JOE FLACCO throwing at least one TD pass in those games. The Steelers have won five of their last six, including their 10-point comeback thriller over Dallas last Sunday. The Ravens like this streak: Pittsburgh has lost its last five in Baltimore.

 

On paper, this should be one intense defensive battle. It’s a matchup between the first (Pittsburgh) and second-ranked defensive units in the NFL. And it’s also a meeting of two of the best safeties in the league – TROY POLAMALU of Pittsburgh (with a league-leading seven interceptions) and ED REED of Baltimore (tied for No. 2 with five pickoffs). “Reed is probably the best safety, him and Polamalu, that I’ve played against,” says Washington QB JASON CAMPBELL. “Those guys are relentless.”

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NOTES

 

STEELERS: Club has 10 wins in consecutive seasons under head coach MIKE TOMLIN & team aims for 11 wins for 1st time since ’05…In past 2 starts vs. Ravens, QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is 2-0 & has completed 27 of 40 passes (67.5 pct.) for 400 yards with 6 TDs vs. 1 INT & 129.2 passer rating. Incl. playoffs, team is 29-2 (.935), when Roethlisberger has 100+ passer rating. Roethlisberger aims for 50th career win as starter (49-19)…Since ’07, RB WILLIE PARKER averages 87.3 rush yards per game vs. AFC North (611 total)…In 5 career games vs. Bal., WR SANTONIO HOLMES averages 20.5 yards per catch (19 rec. for 390 yards)…TE HEATH MILLER has 4 TDs against Bal. (most vs. any opponent)…Club is tied for 1st in NFL with 45 sacks (Dallas)…LB JAMES HARRISON (15) & LB LA MARR WOODLEY (11.5) have totaled 26.5 sacks in ’08. Harrison (15) needs 1 sack to surpass MIKE MERRIWEATHER (15 in 1984) for most sacks in franchise history…S TROY POLAMALU aims for 5th consecutive game with INT.

 

RAVENS: Club has won 7 of past 8…Team is 5-1 (.800) at home in ’08…In past 8, rookie QB JOE FLACCO (1st round, No. 18) has completed 122 of 208 passes (58.7 pct.) for 1,566 yards with 12 TDs vs. 3 INTs & 95.6 passer rating. Flacco aims for 9th consecutive game with TD pass…RB WILLIS MC GAHEE has 3 rush TDs in 3 career games vs. Pit…FB LE’ RON MC CLAIN leads team with 8 total TDs (7 rush, 1 rec.)…Since ’03, WR DERRICK MASON ranks 2nd in NFL with 513 receptions (TORRY HOLT, 549). Mason (9,895) needs 105 receiving yards to reach 10,000. Mason aims for 3rd game in row with TD reception. Mason posted 8 receptions for 137 yards (17.1 avg.) in last meeting against Pit…Since ’03, team is 34-10 (.773) when defense posts 3+ sacks…Club has 7 INTs in past 3 & leads NFL with 22…Since ’02, S ED REED leads NFL with 39 INTs & has 4 in past 3…Ravens have not allowed RB to gain 100+ rush yards in 32 games (longest current streak in NFL)…LB TERRELL SUGGS aims for 3rd consecutive game with at least half sack.

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