Baltimore (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0)
Stadium: Heinz Field
The Ravens head to Pittsburg for Sunday’s match-up and it’s a rivalry game. It’s always a physical game and a defensive battle when these two teams meet. The Ravens are coming off a home win and the Steelers are playing superb on the defensive side of the ball bringing their record to 3-0.
Though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has missed time due to a suspension, the team hasn’t lost a step. Veteran Charlie Batch is taking control of the offense following injuries to both back-up quarterbacks. Against Tampa Bay, Batch was able to stretch the field and connected to receiver Mike Wallace for 2 TD’s. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has been the work horse with good results this year. Mendenhall ran for 143 yards against Tampa and his season average is 5.2 yards a carry. Receiver Mike Wallace is the deep threat and had two long TD receptions against Tampa. Both WR Hines Ward (10 receptions) and TE Heath Miller continue to be productive receivers.
The defense has set the tome for this team. After missing time last year with a knee injury SS Troy Polamalu is playing at full form with 2 interceptions and has the secondary playing well. The Steelers defensive includes their notable playmakers in OLB James Harrison (3 sacks), OLB LaMarr Woodley, ILB Lawrence Timmons, DE Aaron Smith, and DE Brett Keisel. Keisel had a 79 interception return against Tampa Bay. The unit has racked up 10 sacks and 5 interceptions through three games.
Ravens Offensive Line: The Steelers know how to bring pressure and they have done a fairly good job at making Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket in previous match-ups. The Ravens should have a game plan to slow down the Steelers’ NT Casey Hampton and OLB James Harrison.
Key: Pass Protection & Establish the run. We might see some ‘max protection’ packages to fend off the Steelers pass rush. The Ravens offense can’t afford to give up on the run either. RB Ray Rice’s may not play because of a knee contusion. In either scenario Cam Cameron will look to establish the run. If Rice doesn’t play or is limited, the team will go with Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain who should fill in well.
Ravens Defense: Though QB Charlie Catch is a seasoned veteran, the Steelers will count on their running game to help set the tone of the game. Might we finally see DT Mt. Cody and DE Paul Kruger?
Keys: Exploit the offensive line & stop the run. The D-line will look to shut down the running game of Rashard Mendenhall and try to flush Batch out of the pocket with blitz packages. If there is any weakness on the Steelers it is their offensive line. They have given up 7 sacks this season.
OLB James Harrison vs. RT Marshal Yanda: You can bet the Ravens will get some help for Yanda. Harrison has been effective against the Ravens.
QB Flacco vs. SS Troy Polamalu: Flacco will need to know exactly where the Pro Bowl safety is on the field. He will also have make sure he doesn’t stare down his receivers.
WR Boldin vs. CB Ike Taylor: Taylor is the Steelers number one corner, but don’t be surprised if Boldin draws extra attention. This may be a game where Mason, Heap and Housmanzadeh get some favorable match-ups.
NT Ngata vs. C Maurkice Pouncey: The Steelers rookie center won the starting role and has been the bright spot for the offensive line. Haloti Ngata will look for gain control in this battle.
OLB Suggs vs. LT Matt Starks: Suggs is playing well and will need to keep the pressure on the Steelers left tackle.
LB McClain vs. TE Heath Miller: LB Jameel McClain may need to cover TE Miller at times.
Receiver Mike Wallace vs. Secondary: The Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the Jets and now have a new threat in Mike Wallace. Wallace might not be as versatile as Holmes was but he is a solid receiver with great hands and can stretch the field. Whether it be CB Fabian Washington or CB Josh Wilson, they must contain Wallace.
‘WHO MAKES THE HIGHLIGHT’ FILM’
Jonathan Scruggs: ‘Joe Cool’
“I know it’s the easy way out to say Joe Flacco, but I’m picking him for a second straight week because his ability to step up and play at the elite level will dictate the win or the loss.”
Matt Jergensen: “Q”
“With Ray Rice’s status uncertain, the Ravens need a play maker that can put points on the board. Enter Boldin, fresh off his star turn in his first home game helping expose the Steelers secondary.”
Gene Winner: ‘T-Sizzle’
“Terrell Suggs will be looking for his 60th career sack.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Rush yards (3rd) 150.0,
Passing yards (32nd.) 139.2
Points: (8th) 24.0
Rush Yards (3rd) 59.7
Passing Yards: (17th) 219.0
Points (1st) 11.0
Rush yards (23rd) 89.0
Pass yards (17th) 213.0
Points (28th) 14.7
Passing Yards (1st) 116.7
Rushing Yards (23rd) 127.7
Points (4th) 13.7