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LeBeau: 'Ray Rice is one of the best backs who ever played'

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Steelers defensive coordinator is still wary of Ravens RB Ray Rice, even if he isn't having his best season.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau isn't short of praise for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

In 10 regular season games against the Steelers, Rice has 872 total yards (594 rushing, 278 receiving) and six touchdowns. He's been a pain in the posterior for the Steelers to plan for the entire time as well.

"Ray Rice is one of best backs who ever played," LeBeau said, as quoted by Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review. "As long as he is in there, they're going to have a good one in the run game."

Rice has struggled with the Ravens this season, including in Pittsburgh's 19-16 win over Baltimore in Week 7. Rice had 45 yards on 15 carries and four catches for 27 yards. He has four career touchdowns against the Steelers, failing to score in seven of those 10 games.

But his explosion was always a main point of concern, and regardless of past success or failure, the threat of that big play was always imminent.

This year, he's averaging just 2.9 yards a carry, and has four touchdowns on 193 touches. Most recently, he had 17 touches for 27 yards (1.6 yards per touch) in Baltimore's 19-3 win over the New York Jets. While the Jets provide a bit tougher run defense overall than the Steelers do, his struggles this season only suggest injury, or he's seen much better days.

Still, LeBeau's words shouldn't be taken as hyperbole. Rice has had a remarkable, even if short, career. The Ravens would be wise to establish their running game - to whatever extent they can - as these games are usually played conservatively, with two heavyweights waiting to land haymakers in specific spots. Churning out hard-fought yards on the ground is usually the plan of choice to set those up.

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