Ninety-three times a runner has hit 100 yards in an NFL game this season. None of them did it against the Steelers.
Baltimore's Jamal Lewis, who ran for the second-most yards in an NFL season with 2,066 three years ago, will put the Steelers' run defense through another test Sunday. It won't be surprising if he's the latest good running back to fail to strike 100 against them.
Their own Willie Parker ranks third in the AFC among rushers. The Steelers' defense has faced the other four in the top five, and none has cracked 100 against them: Larry Johnson of Kansas City, LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, Rudi Johnson of Cincinnati and Fred Taylor of Jacksonville. They also stopped No. 7 Ronnie Brown of Miami, and now comes No. 8 in Lewis.
"We take pride in stopping the run, since I've been here we always have," linebacker Joey Porter said. "That's why whenever they do have a 100-yard rusher against us, there's a big deal about it because we're mad about it."
Only one runner has hit 100 against the Steelers in the past 44 games; Edgerrin James, when he played for the Indianapolis Colts last season, ran 29 times for 124 yards against them in a regular-season game. It ended a 24-game streak in which they had not allowed a 100-yard rusher.
Previous to that, only Rudi Johnson did it when he ran for 123 yards on 24 carries against them Oct. 3, 2004.
"We pride ourselves in that," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "It just really irritates us that someone can get the ball behind the line of scrimmage and can go ahead and try to break one on us."
You play for the Steelers, you better stop the run. It has been a mantra for the franchise. All teams want to stop the run, few do it more consistently than the Steelers.
They rank eighth in average yards allowed running per game this season (98.4). They were third last year and second in 2004.
"I think it's the understood expectation," said veteran linebacker Chad Brown, returning to the Steelers after playing with them in the 1990s. "It's not necessarily a point of emphasis. It's just understood.
"I've had a couple of stops and coaches, and the run has definitely been emphasized there; you have to stop the run. But it's not discussed and ranted and raved about here. I think 'understood expectation' is the correct phrase for that really."
The Steelers are the only team in the AFC that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC also have not given one up.
"That's kind of a number, that when a back gets 100 yards, you know he had a pretty good game," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "So far, we're doing good."
Matchup: Steelers (4-6) vs. Ravens (8-2)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
TV/Radio: KDKA/WDVE-FM (102.5) and WBGG-AM (970).
As the Steelers head into another must-win game Sunday in Baltimore, players speak with the media before practice yesterday:
Keisel is virtually the only difference in the Steelers' run defense from last season. He replaced Kimo von Oelhoffen, who was considered excellent against the run.
Keisel, more of a pass-rushing type, has held his own against the run. With 39 total tackles, he is two behind supreme run-stopper Aaron Smith at the other end.
"That was my main concern in the offseason," said Keisel, who added 13 pounds since last season and weighs 285.
"I wanted to get better at stopping the run."
Only twice in Bill Cowher's previous 14 seasons as coach have the Steelers allowed more than 4.0 yards per carry for a season -- in 1999 at 4.4 and in 1992 at 4.2. Chuck Noll had one defense in 23 years that allowed more than 4.0 yards per carry, surprisingly in the 1975 Super Bowl season, when they gave up 4.2.
The Steelers have allowed 3.6 this season. All NFL teams, on average, have allowed 4.1 yards this season.
Although they disguise defenses and move people around, the basic premise of a Steelers defense when it wants to stop the run is to have their three linemen, Keisel, Smith and nose tackle Casey Hampton, take on the blocks and allow inside linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote to make the tackles.
"I think our upfront guys do a great job, especially keeping James and Larry clean so they can make plays," free safety Ryan Clark said.
"It's well understood," Brown said, "that if this defense is to work, if you truly want to blitz people on third down ... if we as players want to get after them, let the dogs loose, we have to do our job on first and second down."
It's part of the game they continue to do well in a season that otherwise has not gone well.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .