Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday September 11, 2011 1:05 PM
Line: Ravens -2 O/U 36
“There’s glory in the legends of this hard-muscle life, and there’s poetry in each season made of sweat and strife. Winds whisper of high hopes, victory is in the skies! A season awaits with glory in her eyes. One joins with many on summer’s green field, it is time to strive, to dare, but above all, not to yield.” ~John Facenda
During this week’s Radio Roundtable Matt Jergensen inspired me to lead off the Baltimore Ravens 2011-2012 campaign with the stirring words of the Voice of God. I think the poem (as written by Steve Sabol) perfectly sums up the anticipation we all feel leading into week one’s matchup against Pittsburgh. From the darkness of Western Pennsylvania the Steelers have descended upon our fair city. Although the season has just begun, much is on the line. Will the mighty Baltimore Ravens defend our pride? Or will we forevermore be stuck chasing the Black and Gold demons? With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.
RavensGab.com Keys to the Game
Get Rice Rolling
The Steelers unquestionably have one of the top run defenses in all the land. Running against Pittsburgh is often a fool’s errand and usually leads to loss of down and frustration. That being said, a primary objective for the Ravens this weekend has to be getting Rice on a roll. If the Ravens can make some headway and establish the run early, they will be in far better shape to dominate through the air as the game wears on.
Wear out the Defense
Although much has been made regarding the effect the lockout will have had on the offenses around the league, many have ignored the effect a lack of off-season conditioning will have had on the defense. Take a look at this week’s Packers game to see just how winded both defenses looked late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens must control the ball for as long as possible to wear out the Steeler defense while consequently giving their own unit time to recharge.
Protect the Ball.
All time against the Steelers, the Ravens are -8 in the turnover battle. To put this in prospective they are +42 against the rest of the league. For whatever reason, the Ravens have a real problem with turnovers when playing the Steelers (both home and away). In order to win this weekend they must protect the ball and limit mistakes to the greatest extent possible. Baltimore is 91-22 when it wins the battle of turnovers.
Contain the Pass
When the Steelers have beat the Ravens they have usually done so by getting their receivers behind the Ravens’ corners. For Baltimore to win this Sunday they are going to need a big game out of their secondary. The young players simply have to execute. If the Ravens can shut down Ben’s throwing lanes, he’s that much easier to tackle, and that much easier to contain as he attempts to stretch the play.
Pressure on the Quarterback
The Ravens were towards the very bottom of the league last year when it comes to sacks. For a defense with this much talent, that is simply unacceptable. If the Ravens are going to win, and ultimately dismantle the Steelers, they are going to have to bring massive amounts of press on Roethlisberger. Take a quick look back at the Ravens v. Steelers game in 2008. The Ravens crushed the Steelers by bringing for the heavy rush and exploiting a weak offensive line. They need to do that again to stay in this game.
Ravens Gab Predictions
Jonathon Scruggs (0-0)
Ravens win this game by the skin of their teeth (as has been the custom). Neither side looks particularly sharp, but that doesn’t matter so long as you move on with the W.
Ravens 23 — Steelers 19
Matt Jergensen (0-0)
Both teams are evenly matched but I think the effects of the lockout will play a big part in this game. The Steelers have much of the same roster back while the Ravens are working in new pieces on the offense. Two things normally decide these meetings – ball security and pass protection. The Ravens must win the turnover battle and they must protect Joe Flacco from numerous blitzers. I see that as problematic for an Offensive line that’s never played together before.
Steelers 21 – Ravens 13
Gene Winner (0-0)
It’s always a battle when these two teams clash. The difference in these games has been turnovers; unforced errors by the Ravens just can’t happen anymore. Look for Pagano to be on the attack, blitzing off the edge. Fullback Vonta Leach will be a huge plus in the rushing attack.
Ravens 20 – Steelers 17