Week 9 Match-Up: Baltimore Ravens (5-2) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Baltimore heads to Heinz Filed to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for their second meeting in 2011. In game one this year Baltimore dominated Pittsburgh. This time the Steelers are looking for revenge and to grab the lead in the AFC North.
Pittsburgh’s offense has been piling up some gaudy passing numbers this season, 8th in passing yards per game (273.4). QB Ben Roethlisberger (14 TD’s, 7 Int’s, 2302 yards) continues to find his playmakers WR Mike Wallace and WR Antonio Brown for big gains week after week. The rushing attack has been effective with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. The unit averages 115.4 rushing yards per game (ranked 14th). The offense passes nearly 60 percent of the time. The offensive line, depleted by injuries, has struggled at times; QB Roethlisberger has been sacked 25 times on the season.
Though the Steelers defense continues to have injury issues with their linebackers, it hasn’t impacted their effectiveness. They are ranked 1st in passing yards allowed (171.6) and 8th versus the run allowing just under 100 yards a game (99.1). Last week they stymied the Patriots QB Tom Brady and their top rated passing attack. The defense is ranked 3rd in points allowed, at 17.4. OLB LaMarr Woodley has been their defensive MVP accounting for 9 sacks, nearly half of the teams sack total of 20.
CHALK IT UP:
Steelers O-line vs. Ravens Pass Rush: The Ravens have the number one overall defense and there’s a reason: 25 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 7 interceptions. OLB Terrell Suggs usually has good success in these rivalry match-ups. The defense must apply pressure to disrupt QB Ben Roethlisberger from having time to connect to his talented receivers. Roethlisberger is coming off back to back 300+ yard passing games.
Steelers Receivers vs. Ravens CB’s: The Ravens corners Webb and Williams have their work cut out for them. Mike Wallace has been deadly burning defenses deep this season, he’s up to 800 yards receiving (5 TD”s, 18.6 ave.) Chris Carr coming back helps the secondary with double teaming Mike Wallace at times. Carr might also cover TE Heath Miller (30 rec/431 yards, 2TD’s.) who has been another favorite target of QB Roethlisberger. It’s probably a good thing the Ravens let CB Jimmy Smith get healthy, he will be an added benefit when the Steelers go 4-Wide.
Steelers D vs. RB Rice & WR Boldin: Two of the Ravens playmakers in receiver Anquan Boldin and RB Ray Rice have been on tear lately. Corner Ike Taylor on Boldin is one match-up to watch throughout this game. The other, the Ravens engine Ray Rice versus the Steelers linebacker/coverage. Rice might have a slight advantage out of the backfield facing a depleted Steelers linebacking core, but you can bet Pittsburgh is scheming to limit Rice.
Steelers Blitz/Pressure vs. Ravens O-line: Pittsburgh’s defense is stingy and haven’t let up on opposing quarterbacks with 20 sacks on the season. The Ravens might see some different looks by Pittsburgh. Pointed out by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, “Injuries to three starting linebackers (LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison and James Farrior) could force the Steelers to shift from their traditional 3-4 defense to a 4-3 look.” Ravens fans know Flacco’s struggles in Pittsburgh, the bottom line is protecting Flacco and protecting the football.
Steelers Coverage vs. Ravens Diesel Package: The Ravens were able to counter Arizona’s pressure last week by going into their two tightend set or Diesel package. TE’s Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson give Flacco more options underneath. Don’t count out the Steelers linebackers. Injuries or not, they draft well and will be prepared.
Who Makes the Highlight Film:
Jonathan Scruggs: Ray Rice
Just like in week one against the Steelers, the key to beating them is to take away their strongest suit on defense and run the ball down their throats. It’s looking like two or maybe three of their four starting linebackers are going to be sidelined, so this is the perfect opportunity to use Rice effectively and control the game.
Matt Jergensen: Terrell Suggs
This was a pretty easy choice. Suggs owns the record for the most sacks of Ben Rothelsiberger in the NFL. The Steelers O-Line will have to find a way to contain him.
Gene Winner: Haloti Ngata
Ngata came up big time in game one in Baltimore, he might just have an encore performance.
Ben Zinman: Kicker Billy Cundiff
Billy Cundiff will make the highlight reel.
Noteworthy Stats & News:
- The Ravens sacked Kevin Kolb five times with five or more defensive backs on the field (one sack every 3.2 dropbacks). Coming into Sunday, the Ravens averaged one sack every 10.3 dropbacks using at least five defensive backs, the third-highest rate in the league.
- The Steelers hope linebacker Jason Worilds returns this week from a quadriceps injury. If Woodley, Farrior and Harrison can’t play, Carter, Sylvester and Larry Foote will take on bigger roles. Tomlin also didn’t rule out using four defensive linemen.