-- As if the struggling Baltimore Ravens don't have enough to worry about as they prepare for a Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it appears likely they will travel to Heinz Field without their two defensive leaders, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
Lewis injured his right hamstring in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 10-6 loss at Chicago on Sunday; he left the game and did not return. Reed did not play against the Bears because of a high ankle sprain.
"We'll see when we come back on Thursday," Coach Brian Billick said on Monday during his weekly news conference. "But [playing on Monday is] probably optimistic on both of them."
Lewis was a game-time decision in Chicago after not practicing last week because of what Billick described as an injury to Lewis's upper hamstring, right below the gluteus. Against the Bears, Lewis pulled his lower hamstring.
Reed has not played since injuring his right ankle against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 16. Chad Williams started at strong safety in place of Reed in Chicago, and Bart Scott, a former rookie free agent now in his fourth year, will start at middle linebacker if Lewis can't play.
Facing Pittsburgh (4-2), the defending AFC North champion, without the past two NFL defensive player of the year award winners will be a "huge challenge," Billick said. "The next guy steps up, and that's the mentality. That's a tall order, but you can't approach the game any other way, so that's the approach we'll take. We will be fine. We'll find ways to get it covered. We'll coach the next guy up."
The Ravens (2-4) have plenty of other issues to work through aside from the injuries. Baltimore is averaging 11.5 points and is the only team in the NFL that has failed to score at least 20 points in a game this season. The Ravens have been penalized 64 times for 481 yards (an average of 10.7 penalties per game). Running back Jamal Lewis has yet to get on track, with 326 yards on 113 carries, a 2.9 yards per carry average.
"It's very, very frustrating," Billick said.
Against the Bears, the Ravens were penalized 11 times for 100 yards. Four of those flags were for holding (three offensive), and two were for roughing the passer. Both of Chicago's scoring drives were helped by a Baltimore penalty on third down.
In previous years, Billick has invited referees to practice to emphasize certain calls, but he has not done that so far this season.
"We can certainly look at that to see if we can bring extra focus to it, but quite frankly, having done that before, I don't know what it yields," Billick said. "You find whatever way you can to try to bring focus for the players, by looking at the film, by practicing it, by bringing attention to it. Sometimes you have to look structurally, are we putting some players in positions where we're isolating them too much?"
Jamal Lewis was held to 34 yards rushing on 15 carries against the Bears. He had one run of 13 yards; the rest went for three yards or fewer. He has yet to break 100 yards rushing this season, the longest such drought in his career.
"Give [Chicago] credit, but we did not knock people off the ball," Billick said. "It was not an eighth man problem; we didn't block the seven adequately. We've done it all: We've trapped, we've countered; inside zone, outside zone; weak-side man, strong-side man. We've done about everything you can do."
One of the few things the Ravens didn't try on Sunday in Chicago was giving the ball to Chester Taylor, Lewis's backup. Taylor, who is averaging six yards per rush, had two carries, both in the fourth quarter, for 21 yards. Billick said he had no regrets in not using Taylor more because the Ravens went into the game planning to "press the agenda with Jamal. We wanted to give him enough carries to get into a rhythm.
"We still have to get Jamal more involved," Billick said. "We have to be better up front with it. We've got to be better at tight end, at receivers, what we're calling, when we're calling it, how we're attacking it, to try to give him a chance to get him into that rhythm."
Ravens Notes: Billick said defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was penalized for roughing the passer for the second time in three weeks, "is a marked man. If he's even close, he's going to get a flag."
Suggs was ejected from the Detroit game after contesting a roughing penalty and making contact with an official. . . .
Quarterback Kyle Boller's rehabilitation is progressing, but he will not play against the Steelers. Boller has not played since hyperextending his right big toe in the season opener, though he resumed practicing last week.
Said Billick: "Could he be the third quarterback this week? We've got a little extra time. We'll see how the week goes; that would be great. To think it would be above that this week, again, might be overly ambitious." . . .
Fullback Alan Ricard injured his calf against the Bears, but not the same calf that kept him out of four of the first five games, according to Billick. The Ravens are hopeful defensive end Anthony Weaver (toe) and rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton (ankle) will be available against the Steelers.