Ob­jec­tive: Slow down Steel­ers’ Bell

‘Unique’ RB pa­tient, shifty; WR Smith prac­tices again

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

The Ravens have had to craft de­fen­sive strate­gies to limit op­pos­ing run­ning backs such as the Buf­falo Bills’ LeSean McCoy, the Cleve­land Browns’ Isa­iah Crow­ell and the New York Jets’ Matt Forte. But the Pittsburgh Steel­ers’ Le’Veon Bell — who will visit M&T Bank Sta­dium on Sun­day — presents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge for the de­fense.

“He’s a unique, unique run­ning back,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees said after Thurs­day’s prac­tice. “One of the most pa­tient guys I’ve ever seen. Just re­ally ex­cep­tional. I think he’s one of the best backs we’ve ever gone up against. He’s a very pa­tient run­ner. If you jump off the blocks too quick, he’s go­ing to make you pay. And the thing of it is, there’s guys that are kind of pa­tient run­ners and guys that are down­hill run­ners. The dif­fer­ence with him is he’s pa­tient, and then when he bursts, he bursts. He can hit the hole quick. He’s got great vi­sion. The other thing is, he’s a prob­lem out of the back­field in the pass­ing game. He’s just a su­per-tal­ented guy, and I think he’s dif­fer­ent from most of the backs.”

De­spite hav­ing sat out the first three games of the sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s sub­stance-abuse pol­icy, Bell al­ready ranks fifth in the league in yards from scrim­mage with 589. He has yet to reach the end zone this sea­son, but his pass-catch­ing abil­ity (he ranks fifth among tail­backs in re­cep­tions with 30) makes him a threat on ev­ery down.

The Ravens have fared well in the past against Bell, who has reached 100 rush­ing yards just once and scored three to­tal touch­downs in five ca­reer meet­ings. While de­clin­ing to elab­o­rate on the de­fense’s suc­cess against Bell, out­side line­backer Al­bert McClel­lan said the key is to avoid be­ing lulled by Bell’s shifty moves.

“He’ll make you com­mit to some­thing you thought you saw, but he’s quick and he’s got such a good jump-cut that he’ll ma­neu­ver through a hole that re­ally wasn’t there from the get-go that he cre­ated off of just one move­ment,” McClel­lan said. “You re­ally can’t take too many chances with him be­cause he’s a make-you-miss type of guy. So we re­ally need ev­ery­body ral­ly­ing to the ball.” Smith re­turns: Steve Smith Sr. prac­ticed on a lim­ited ba­sis Thurs­day, of­fer­ing the first sign that the vet­eran wide re­ceiver could play Sun­day.

Smith has not been on the field since he in­jured his an­kle in the first quar­ter of a16-10 loss to the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins on Oct. 9. He was not on the field at the team’s train­ing Steve Smith Sr., catch­ing a pass against the Raiders, re­turned to prac­tice on a lim­ited ba­sis Thurs­day, sig­nal­ing that he could be avail­able to play against the Steel­ers on Sun­day. fa­cil­ity in Owings Mills dur­ing the por­tion of prac­tice open to the me­dia, but was listed as a lim­ited par­tic­i­pant on the team’s in­jury re­port.

Smith’s re­turn would be a sig­nif­i­cant boost for a pass­ing at­tack that is ranked 18th in the NFL in av­er­age yards (246.1) and for quar­ter­back Joe Flacco, who has not thrown a touch­down pass in his past 11 quar­ters. Smith still ranks third on the team in catches (27) and yards (310).

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marty Morn­hin­weg did not shed much light Thurs­day on how Smith’s ab­sence has af­fected the of­fense, say­ing only: “Steve is one of the great play­ers in the game. When he is out, the next player steps up. When he can play again, we will uti­lize him.” Rookie Young off to fast start: Even for some­one who ran the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 sec­onds, Tavon Young thinks his rookie cam­paign has gone fast.

The 5-foot-9, 177-pound cor­ner­back has started the past two games and might start again Sun­day if Sha­reece Wright can­not go. The fourth-round pick from Tem­ple con­ceded that he never imag­ined mak­ing his first start only six games into his first year.

“I thought I was go­ing to be a nickel [cor­ner­back], but things hap­pen,” Young said. “Guys got hurt, and I had to step up and play out­side.”

Young has al­ready made a fa­vor­able im­pres­sion on de­fense. His two in­ter­cep­tions trail only in­side line­backer C.J. Mosley’s team-lead­ing three, and he has made 17 tack­les (15 solo) and re­cov­ered one fum­ble.

On Sun­day, Young could be asked to cover Steel­ers wide re­ceivers An­to­nio Brown, Sam­mie Coates or Dar­rius Hey­ward-Bey (Mary­land, McDonogh). Young, 22, said he is not in­tim­i­dated by the pos­si­ble as­sign­ments.

“I’m just ready to go out there and com­pete and have fun with it,” he said. “I’m just a young guy out there learn­ing and try­ing to play ball.” End zone: Pittsburgh quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger (torn menis­cus in left knee) prac­ticed on a lim­ited ba­sis for the se­cond straight day. Start­ing right guard David DeCas­tro, who did not prac­tice on Wed­nes­day for non-in­jury rea­sons, was re­moved from the in­jury re­port. … Brown is also the Steel­ers’ pri­mary punt re­turner. Al­though he has yet to score on a re­turn this sea­son, Brown has re­turned four punts and one kick for touch­downs in his ca­reer. “What con­cerns me is that he’s re­ally good,” Ravens spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jerry Ros­burg said. “It’s re­mark­able how much of­fense he plays and then he goes out there as a punt re­turner and has great en­ergy. He’s an im­pres­sive ath­lete. All the things you see him do on of­fense with the ball in his hands, he can do as a punt re­turner. It con­tin­ues to be our job when­ever we play this team to try to keep him un­der con­trol be­cause he’s a game-changer.” … Pees said one at­tribute of the 6-5, 240-pound Roeth­lis­berger that gets over­looked is his deft touch on passes over de­fend­ers’ out­stretched hands. “I watched a play this morn­ing show­ing on film a touch on an over route where a guy had good cov­er­age, and he didn’t try to drill it in there,” Pees said. “He laid it out ex­actly. That’s a skill.”


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