Pitta will help Ravens offense, not save it

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For a team that has dealt with a tornado watch and its general manager hospitalized, the Baltimore Ravens got their best news of the week with the return of tight end Dennis Pitta to the practice field.

When Pitta is ready to suit up for a game, he will provide a boost to a struggling offense, much like Ray Lewis' return gave a lift to the defense last season. If Pitta can come close to looking like the tight end from 2012, he will make the Ravens better on third downs and in the red zone.

Pitta will certainly help the Ravens in a lot of areas, but he won't suddenly turn around an offense that ranks 30th in total yards (308.5) and 25th in points per game (20.8). What he gives the Ravens is a significant upgrade over Baltimore's current tight ends, a sure-handed but slow Dallas Clark and an unreliable Ed Dickson.

The problem for the Ravens is there are more issues than the tight end position. Pitta won't fix the NFL's 27th-ranked rushing attack. He won't fix the Ravens' pass protection, although he'll become a reliable hot route target when Joe Flacco is pressured.

In other words, the Ravens' offense isn't one player away from becoming the same offense from last season's playoffs. But it's a start in the right direction.

"Any time you lose a good player that's been a big part of what we've done around, you miss something," Flacco said.

What the Ravens have missed is Pitta's reliable hands. He dropped three passes all of last season, a number Dickson surpassed in the first month of the season.

What Flacco has missed is that close rapport with a target. Pitta and Flacco are close friends, and that chemistry showed up on the field. Pitta scored seven touchdowns in the regular season -- tied for the most ever by a Ravens tight end -- and also scored a touchdown in three of four postseason games, including one in the Super Bowl.

Still, you have to temper your expectations because no one knows what Pitta can do in a game after not taking a hit over the past 3 1/2 months.

He's the best tight end the Ravens have on their roster. He isn't an answer to all of the Ravens' problems on offense.

"If I'm able to contribute at some point this year, I want to make sure I'm playing within myself and am doing my job," Pitta said. "That's all I can do."