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11-22-2006, 07:48 AM
Steelers' Ward hopeful knee will be ready

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Every NFL coach worth his headset and red challenge flag has mastered the art of talking up the opponent.

Bill Cowher is no exception, and at his Tuesday news conference the Steelers coach made the Baltimore Ravens sound nearly invincible.

"They have no weaknesses," Cowher said of the team that has won four consecutive games and is 8-2. "We're going to have to play at a very high level and play our best game just to compete with this team."

The Steelers may not have one of their best players at his best against the Ravens.

Wide receiver Hines Ward hyperextended his knee in the Steelers' 24-20 win over the Browns and is questionable for Sunday's 1 p.m. game in Baltimore.

Ward, who had seven catches for 81 yards against the Browns, had testing done on his knee, and it ruled out any serious damage.

"We'll see how he progresses as the week goes on," Cowher said,

The Steelers (4-6) have won consecutive games for the first time this season, and they scored 21 fourth-quarter points to rally past the Browns.

The Steelers, however, played poorly enough through the first three quarters that they almost didn't get a chance to mount a furious comeback -- one, it should noted, that came against a team that is now 3-7.

"The team we play this week, we can't dig ourselves a hole like we did last week and expect to get out of it," Cowher said. "It will take a complete game in all three phases to have a chance to compete against this team."

Cowher said a shakeup could be coming in one of those phases.

The Steelers gave up a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to the Browns' Joshua Cribbs, continuing what has become a disturbing trend in special teams play.

The Steelers have given up a handful of long returns this season -- four have covered at least 50 yards -- and Cowher is considering using some defensive starters on the kick coverage team to rectify that.

"Something has to change somewhere and somehow," Cowher said. "The results right now are not where they need to be. It's disappointing."

The Steelers need to dramatically improve in that area since the Ravens have one of the NFL's top kick/returners in B.J. Sams.

Containing him might not be the biggest challenge facing the Steelers.

The Ravens' defense is as opportunistic as it is intimidating, and Baltimore has forced 26 turnovers.

Two statistics that don't bode well for the Steelers: The Ravens lead the NFL with 18 interceptions, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a league-high 17 interceptions.

Playing a team that exploits what the Steelers have not done well so far may seem as palatable to Cowher as Thanksgiving leftovers in January.

But he also sounded anxious to see how his team measures up against one of the top teams in the AFC.

The Steelers need to beat the Ravens in Baltimore for the first time since 2002 to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

"We have an opportunity," Cowher said. "Is it a challenge? You're darn right it is. At this time of the year it's something you have to embrace."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_480927.html

BigDuke6
11-22-2006, 11:21 AM
Gawd help us if he isnt ready to play. This is going to ba a physical game on Sunday.