Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick took one look at a videotape of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 43-0 victory over the Cleveland Browns last week and reached a conclusion about the Steelers.
"They look like they're ready for the Super Bowl," he said. "Every phase of the game was executed."
Billick cannot say the same about his team after a 27-10, season-opening loss to the St. Louis Rams. The Ravens played poorly against the Rams and will need to perform at a higher level to have a chance against Pittsburgh today at 1 p.m. at PSINet Stadium.
Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher cautioned that his team's dominating performance in the expansion Browns' first game hardly provides a true measure of the Steelers' talent.
"You have to keep it in perspective and you have to understand the circumstances," Cowher said. "The circumstances had a lot to do with it. [But] we did come out and play with a very good focus."
Quarterback Kordell Stewart was impressive, passing for 173 yards and a touchdown and running for 33 yards and another score. In his third season as a starter, he appears to have regained the form he displayed two years ago while leading the Steelers to the AFC championship game.
Although running back Jerome Bettis did not play during the preseason because of knee surgery, he rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries against the Browns, even though he was replaced early in the second half.
"It makes all the difference in the world" having Bettis healthy, Stewart said. "He's our horse on offense."
Defensively, the Steelers were stifling against the Browns, holding them to 40 yards and two first downs. Because Pittsburgh's offense was so productive, the defense had a light workday. It spent only 4 minutes 38 seconds on the field during the second half.
It will be up to Ravens quarterback Scott Mitchell and running back Priest Holmes to present more of a challenge to the Steelers' defense. Mitchell had a poor debut against the Rams, completing 17 of 40 passes for 188 yards with two interceptions.
"I'm the guy who orchestrates the offense and we didn't do a good job, so I think it falls on my shoulders," Mitchell said. "I'm not going to point the finger at anyone but myself. I didn't get the job done."
Holmes suffered a knee injury during last week's game but continued to play. He was limited to 12 carries but gained 52 yards.
On defense, the Ravens need a few more players other than middle linebacker Ray Lewis to become involved. Lewis was spectacular, recording 14 unassisted tackles, a sack and an interception, but he won't be able to stop Bettis alone. With defensive end Michael McCrary returning to game shape, the pass rush should be better than it was a week ago and that should help a secondary that surrendered 316 passing yards to the Rams.
Pittsburgh has history on its side against Baltimore, having won five of the teams' six meetings. It has swept the past two season series.
Billick faulted his team for not being more physically intense against St. Louis. He said this week he expects the team to be much more aggressive today in its home opener.
"We have to," he said. "If not, we'll have the same result."