OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- His name is Ray, and he serves as both a playmaker and leader for the Baltimore Ravens.
Ray Lewis? Sure, that works when talking about the esteemed Baltimore defense. On offense, however, those qualities adequately describe versatile running back Ray Rice.
"I think the plus-1,200 yards and plus-60 catches says it all," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "This guy is a great football player."
"I went in there and said, 'They gave us the field position. Now let's help our defense out a little bit!' " Rice recalled. "And we did our job."
Rice ran three times in the five-play drive, including a 7-yard carry for a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 13-0 lead.
"For me as a young player, when you get a guy like Ed Reed to come up to you and say, 'You know what? It's your turn to go take care of this offense,' I take that with a lot of respect and pride," said Rice, 23. "I'm talking to men that are a lot older than me, and people respond to me. It just shows that I have a leadership capability. When a guy asks you to do something like that, it means that he has a lot of respect for you."
The two Rays are alike in that they can dominate a game when at their best.
"He gets everything going on the offensive side of the ball," Lewis said of Rice. "It's a snowball effect, because when Ray gets going, our defense gets going. He has that type of ability. He can take over a game anytime he gets ready, just by letting him touch the ball a certain number of times. He has those type of skills."
"For our offense, he's a guy that's able to do a variety of things," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "If people want to bring pressure, then he's a back we can leave in there on third down to protect. And if can slip out in the flat, he creates a matchup problem with linebackers because usually 1-on-1 he can beat them."
A year ago, Rice made the Pro Bowl after running for 1,339 yards and catching 78 passes. Although his numbers dropped a bit this season, his importance to the offense has not changed.
The Steelers limited him to 52 yards in 17 carries over two games this season, but Rice can't wait to try again.
"You can't just take the ball and run it right at them. So we have to pick and choose when we run the ball against that team," Rice said. "But I think running the ball is going have something to do with controlling the clock, and I think clock management will be big in this game."
"I know the problems I can present to them," he said. "They know out of the backfield that I can catch the ball, they know I'm a great screen runner. They know those things. So when I'm on the field it presents a different threat. I know I can do multiple things against Pittsburgh to be successful."
He would love for this season to end on the sport's grandest stage.
"I've played in every kind of playoff except for one, and that's the big dance," Rice said. "That's the ultimate goal."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press