OWINGS MILLS, Md. (Oct. 24, 2005) -- Winless on the road and in serious danger of falling out of playoff contention, the last-place Baltimore Ravens will likely be without linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
Reed missed the 10-6 loss to the Chicago Bears with a high ankle sprain, and Lewis left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. Reed was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, and Lewis won the award in 2003.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said it would be "optimistic" to believe that either player would be available in Pittsburgh for a game Baltimore (2-4) desperately needs to win in order to remain a factor in the AFC North.
Reed probably needs at least another week to recover from the injury that occurred on Oct. 16 against Cleveland. Lewis missed practice last week with a high hamstring strain, then hurt another part of the same right leg.
"It's a different pull. This is much lower," Billick said. "(Doctors) are still determining whether it's related or not, and how severe it might be."
Chad Williams played in place of Reed in Chicago and is prepared to start against in Pittsburgh. Bart Scott will start at middle linebacker if Lewis can't go.
"I pride myself on being a linebacker and a professional. As an athlete, you look forward to every challenge, no matter how steep it may seem. I look forward to stepping in and not having a dropoff," Scott said. "What better way, if you are going to get your feet wet and have your first start, than on Monday Night Football?"
The Ravens may also be without fullback Alan Ricard, who hurt his calf against the Bears and didn't finish the game. Defensive tackle Anthony Weaver is also a question mark after missing two straight games with a hyperextended toe.
"Everybody deals with injuries," Billick said. "We've been there before. The next guy steps up. That's a tall order, but you can't approach the game any other way."
Playing without several injured starters is merely one of many concerns for the Ravens, who have yet to score 20 points and are averaging nearly 11 penalties a game. Against the Bears, Baltimore mustered 199 yards in offense and received 100 yards worth of penalties in dropping its sixth straight road game, dating back to last year.
"The frustration, the angst -- anger, if you will -- of the fans right now is matched only by the coaches and the players and the organization," Billick said. "It's very frustrating, very angering to not play better, to not do a couple of those things that you have to win in a close game."
Baltimore is averaging an NFL-worst 11.5 points a game, and the defense has forced six turnovers. Combine that with all the penalties and injuries to key players, and there's little wonder why the Ravens find themselves in a desperate situation as they prepare for the archrival Steelers.
Billick figures Baltimore will need a 10-6 record to qualify for the playoffs, which means the Ravens will need to finish with a flourish.
"It's very clear cut. For us, that means 8-2 the rest of the way," he said. "That is ambitious, to say the least. But right now, that's the opportunity. As long as those odds are, and as uphill as that may seem for a 2-4 team, that's what you embrace right now as the potential, and you use that as part of your motivation going forward."