- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Ray Lewis was long one of the faces of the rivalry that has churned out one classic slugfest after another.
And the former Ravens linebacker turned ESPN NFL analyst doesn’t recognize the team he loved to hate but also grew to respect because of its physicality.
Lewis said on ESPN’s "Mike & Mike" show Friday morning that the Steelers have gotten away from what has traditionally defined them: hard-nosed football.
“They are a totally different team,” Lewis said.
The offensive side of the ball, Lewis said, is where there has been pronounced change. Lewis said the Steelers have gotten away from drafting a certain type of player, and that they have targeted “smaller, quicker” wide receivers in recent years.
That is another way of saying the Steelers don’t have a tone-setter like Hines Ward, who played wide receiver with the mentality of a linebacker.
The Steelers’ inability to run the ball --- they have rushed for less than 100 yards in seven consecutive games -- is one reason the offense has been criticized from all sides.
Lewis said such struggles reflect a bigger problem in that the Steelers have gotten away from who they are -- and that things could get worse in Pittsburgh before they get better.
Steelers fans won’t like such an appraisal coming from the greatest player in Ravens history. But will they have an issue with the messenger or the message?