Week 15 Preview: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The league’s top two defense’s will meet this Sunday at M & T Bank stadium where the Ravens will look to win their ninth game out of their last ten and secure a tie in the AFC North and the Steelers who with a victory can secure their second straight divisional crown.

Both defenses have shown a knack for not just generating turnovers but converting them into points. So it’s safe to assume that it won’t just be about who make plays or causes turnovers but who can cash them in on the scoreboard.

The Steelers main weapons on the defensive side are James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Harrison not only has tied a team record this season of 15 sacks but is also third on the team with 12 special teams tackles. He never comes of the field and his big play ability must be limited as his sacks and tackles also lead to forced fumbles. Polamalu with his wild hair flapping under his helmet plays with recklessness and has rediscovered his ability for pick offs as his seven interceptions lead the NFL.

The Ravens have their usual cast of superlative players too. Ed Reed, who appear at full strength was named AFC defensive player of the week for his second time in four weeks after a sparkling performance last Sunday night. While Ray Lewis looked like a younger version of himself chasing ball carriers sideline to sideline. Terrell Suggs will also need to make his presence felt on the front lines and try and get to the quarterback.

So it’s fair to say that points may be at a premium this week. So looking at the offensive side there are a few interesting facts to note.

Pittsburgh’s offense is ranked 25th in the league and in particular their running game has been largely absent from their season. This could be contributed to several things, changes on the line or the Steelers shift of philosophy to a spread offense and not using the fullback.

Baltimore’s offense still ranks around the middle of the pack at 19th in the NFL but over the last eight games they have scored a league best 29.8 points going 7-1 during that span. They have used a potent run game led by Le’Ron McClain and have used creative sets and gimmick plays to keep defenses honest.

That means that quarterback play should be a huge factor is deciding the outcome of this contest. Both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger played almost even in the first meeting in Pittsburgh when the Steelers came away with the 3 point overtime win. It’s going to fall to who can make enough plays and generate points any way possible to see who comes out on top.

I see this game coming down to two main factors; field position and turnovers. In a defensive struggle that this game will surely turn out to be, field position is going to be key as both field goal kickers will have to be on their game because touchdowns may be hard to come by. Note which team is able to generate more first downs, as well as convert on third down. The leader here will win the ball game. Turnovers, as I mentioned earlier are even more crucial as both teams can score off miscues.

This game will be the most important regular season game in Ravens history. I still feel that M & T Bank stadium is a underrated place to play and the Steelers should know better than anyone as they haven’t won there since 2003. These teams know each other very well, have similar styles and rarely sweep each other. I see it coming down to a field goal once again but this time going to the team in purple. My biggest concern is staying away from turnovers that turn into scores, as the Steeler offense isn’t much to be worried about. I also hope that the team doesn’t get preoccupied with Hines Ward. Let’s face it. Commentators love his blocking but do they talk much about his receiving? He has n’t had a 1,000 yard receiving season since 2004. He also hasn’t caught a TD in the last 7 games against the Ravens. He tries to be a distraction and does his job well. Don’t buy into it. All things considered the Ravens get the victory. But even with a Ravens win they still may need help to get the division however they can only further help their playoff case down the road.

Ravens 17 Steelers 13

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