Opening day, and could it get any bigger than this? The two top teams in the AFC North battle for what could will be a VERY early lead in the division, but also for bragging rights for early in the division. Last season it was a big play by Defensive MVP Troy Polamalu, and Sunday, it will need that type of effort to get out of dodge with an opening day win.
1. Early Momentum – It’s opening day, your on the road, and your against your biggest rivals. No better way to make things happen than to do it early and with some purpose. The Steelers could use a solid opening drive on either side of the ball to make a statement, and it also gets a lot of people wearing purple to stay quiet. More than likely, it will be up to the pass game and Big Ben to look downfield to make a play or two.
2. Make Flacco Think – Ravens QB Joe Flacco last season picked the Steelers defense apart on a last series drive to beat the Black and Gold 17-14 in Pittsburgh in week four. Then in the rematch, the team didn’t just sit back on the last drive, they ran different looks at him, and it paid off as the last Ravens offensive play hit the turf with a poor pass from Flacco. He usually doesn’t step up against the Steelers, and Dick LeBeau in what could be his last game in Baltimore, needs to turn the heat up with blitzes and different looks.
3. Spread em out – Like the Steelers, if there’s a weak spot on the Ravens, it’s their secondary and more so, the corners. Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr can be had, and it starts with the burner – Mike Wallace. He is the playmaker for the Steelers, and if you take a few shots with him downfield like Ben did a season ago, he’s bound to hit one or two, and they can pay off. If the Steelers can protect Ben long enough to allow him to get looks downfield, he’s going to get one or two – book it.
Prediction – The Steelers are 7-0 in their last five games vs the Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger is the starter at QB, and the Steelers are usually a very good team on opening day. They have never lost an opener under Mike Tomlin, and I don’t see it happening here. Sure, it’s gonna be a tough game with its usual hard hits and high emotion, but that’s where I take Tomlin over Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. He’ll have his team ready for sure, and it showed with a very quiet camp where they got their work in and they went 3-1 in the preseason. The Steelers are by many experts the pick in the AFC this year, and it starts with a hard fought win in Baltimore. Steelers 17 Ravens 14