Jermaine Lewis was desperate to catch a pass last Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, so desperate that late in the game when Baltimore Ravens quarterback Scott Mitchell overthrew him, Lewis lunged for the ball even though it was clearly on its way out of bounds.
Lewis never caught a pass against the Rams. The Ravens know that can't happen again when they play Pittsburgh in their home opener at 1 p.m. Sunday.
"It's something we have to do," Mitchell said. "He's a very explosive guy who can really make a lot of things happen. For him to not get a ball in the game, I think it's disappointing to us. It's something we've got to try and do a better job of this week."
Lewis, a former University of Maryland standout from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, had six touchdowns on 41 catches last season and was the Ravens' leading receiver with 784 yards. His ability to make the big play -- he averaged 19.1 yards per catch, third in the NFL -- makes him a key component of Baltimore's offense. Lewis's blazing speed also helped earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl last season as a return specialist.
Yet Lewis was not a factor against the Rams. Mitchell threw the ball in his direction just five times. The Ravens were unable to find a way to get him involved in the offense. It was because Lewis wanted so badly to touch that ball that he went after the pass Mitchell threw out of bounds.
"I wanted to get my hands on it, make sure I was doing the right thing," Lewis said. "I was just running out there. I didn't get hit. I didn't catch anything. I was just running routes basically."
With Patrick Johnson out with a strained calf muscle, Lewis has been the only wide receiver with notable speed on the field. That has allowed the defense to focus more on Lewis. Johnson said his calf is about 70 percent, but that he hopes to play Sunday. Having Johnson on the field would open up more chances, not just for Lewis, but for other receivers to catch the ball.
"I can free him up and vice versa," Johnson said. "Both of us would complement each other. . . . It's not whether I'm getting the ball, I'm a threat to see if I can make some plays."
Although Lewis was frustrated by his lack of production against St. Louis, he remains upbeat.
"I've just got to keep my focus and try to remain calm," he said. "And when I get my opportunities, take advantage of them."
The Ravens had other offensive problems against the Rams besides Lewis not catching a pass. It will certainly take more than getting the ball to Lewis to beat the Steelers. However, the more Lewis touches the ball, the more likely it is good things will happen for Baltimore. For his part, Lewis would prefer to get into the flow of the game quickly and shake off his disappointing performance from last Sunday.
"If I got a catch early that would help out," he said.
Ravens Notes: Left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who strained his hip against the Rams, was moving more easily Wednesday. He said the pain has gone from a sharp to a dull ache.
"I'll get more treatment, more rest and I'll be ready to go," he said.
The Ravens are listing tackle James Atkins (thigh), defensive end Rob Burnett (knee), running back Priest Holmes (knee), wide receiver Patrick Johnson (calf) and Ogden (hip) as questionable for Sunday's game. Tight end Greg DeLong (shoulder) is probable.