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Game Day Buzz: Steelers, Ben will continue winning ways vs Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (0-0)

 When: 1:00 p.m. | Where: M & T Stadium
Odds: Baltimore minus-1
Game Notes: Head coach Mike Tomlin is 4-0 in season openers. The Steelers have not lost a season opener since 2002…..Ravens Head coach John Harbaugh is 3-0 in season openers…..Pittsburgh won 2 of 3 games vs Baltimore last season (including playoffs) and are 6-2 vs Ravens since 2008…..QB Ben Roethlisberger is 7-0 vs the Ravens since the 2007 season with 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions….QB Joe Flacco is 2-4 all-time vs Pittsburgh in the regular season. In four career regular season losses to Pittsburgh, Flacco has produced 6 turnovers and a 69.7 QB rating…..The last Steelers running back to rush for over 100 yards vs Baltimore was Jerome Bettis (12/26/04 – 27 CAR -117 YARDS)……Hines Ward has 0 TD’s in his last 11 regular season games vs Baltimore…..OLB Terrell Suggs had 15 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 3 games (including playoffs) vs the Steelers in 2010….OLB James Harrison has 65 tackles, 9 sacks and 7 forced fumbles against the Ravens since 07…..RB Ray Rice rushed for 52 yards on 17 carries in two regular season games vs Steelers in 2010. In 2009, Rice collected 229 rushing yards in two regular season games vs Steelers….LB LaMarr Woodley has 7.5 sacks in 8 career starts (including playoffs) vs Baltimore….DE Haloti Ngata had 19 tackles, 2 sacks vs Steelers in 2010 (including playoffs)…. LB Lawrence Timmons had 30 tackles and 1 sack in 3 games (including playoffs) vs Ravens in 2010.

Game Day Buzz

Last night we took a look at five key matchups for today’s Week 1 showdown. Here are some underrated matchups that could also dictate today’s winner. {Inactive list will be posted at the end of the page, shortly after 11:30 a.m.}
WR Lee Evans vs CB Bryant McFadden or Keenan Lewis
The 30-year old Evans is seen by many as the vertical threat that the Baltimore Ravens missed in 2010 and there is a lot banking on Evans as Joe Flacco has less weapons around him this season with Todd Heap and Derrick Mason being cut.
Evans who had 37 receptions for 578 yards in 2010, averaging 15.6 yards per catch, has had little success against the Steelers in his career, collecting 5 catches for 89 yards in three career games. Evans though is seen as a player who could very much impact this game, even if he doesn’t make the stat sheet that much.
The Ravens believe his ability to stretch the field will open things up for the likes of Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice.
CB Bryant McFadden who did not play in the preseason, will get the primary matchup against Evans. McFadden struggled to stay healthy last season and it’s been status quo for him so far, as he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s not a good bet that McFadden will make it through the game. That could put Keenan Lewis highly involved in the game, who is the primary backup behind McFadden. Lewis has little to no experience in game situations.
Lee by the way has been dealing with a foot/ankle injury.
Ray Rice vs Steelers LB’s
The Ravens offensively look to get Ray Rice involved in the passing game by getting him in the open field up against a linebacker, which more often than not is a clear mis-match for the opposition.
The Steelers did an excellent job at limiting Rice’s big play ability in 2010. In two regular season games, Rice accumulated just 79 all-purpose yards. A major difference from 2009 when Rice had 310 all-purpose yards vs the Steelers, flashing his big play ability in the passing game, most notably beating James Farrior on a quick slant for a game changing play on 4th down in Baltimore’s 20-17 win on November 29, 2009.
C Matt Birk vs DT Casey Hampton
An intriguing matchup today is Ravens center Matt Birk vs Casey Hampton. Birk missed all of the preseason and was limited for most of training camp with knee problems. Casey Hampton who just turned 34 last week, doesn’t yet look like he’s a lost a step and could cause Birk problems who’s not at full strength.
DE Haloti Ngata vs Steelers O-Line
Terrence Cody is now the starting defensive tackle, which moves Ngata to end which makes him even more dangerous for opposing offenses. Ngata who has a rare combination of size, speed and strength, has proven to be a major mismatch for the Steelers in the past. In 2010, Ngata had 19 tackles and 2 sacks in three games vs the Steelers (including playoffs). He also gave Ben Roethlisberger a broken nose. The Ravens intend to move him around quite a bit and Ngata should expect to see quite a few double teams.

Five Things I’ll be Watching

1. Can Flacco out-perform Ben?: Reasons why Ben Roethlisberger is 6-0 against Joe Flacco in his career? Roethlisberger has not been susceptible to that big turnover or two and Flacco has. Look for Roethlisberger to continue his winning ways against Flacco and Baltimore today.
2. Steelers pass to run ratio: The ownership mandate from 2010 to run the ball is gone and Ben Roethlisberger, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians are antsy to air the ball out in 2009 form. Some players like Antonio Brown have predicted a 60/40 pass to run ratio. Logic says that could be the case today as the Steelers have not had a 100 yard rusher against the Ravens since 2004 and Baltimore could be even tougher to run on this year. Rashard Mendenhall though has been effective against the Ravens in his career and the Steelers will not go away from the running game by any means. The Steelers also seem to play it conservative against Baltimore, unless they are trailing. The team though will be looking aggressively for explosive plays. I’d look for a 53/47 pass to run ratio.
3. James Harrison vs Bryant McKinnie: Really intrigued by this matchup as both players come into today’s game with question marks. As for Harrison, all eyes will be on whether his endurance becomes an issue like it did in the preseason and if it does, will the Steelers actually look to spell him.
4. Anquan Boldin vs Ike Taylor: Bolden had 12 receptions for 186 yards and 1 touchdown in 2 regular season games vs Steelers but was limited to just 1 reception for minus-2 yards against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Ike Taylor who has barely played and practiced in the preseason, gets the primary matchup.
5. Aaron Smith: The 35 year old veteran will appear in his first NFL game since October 24, 2010 and has only played in a combined 11 regular season games the past two seasons (2009, 2010).
Steelers Inactives: Dennis Dixon, Curtis Brown, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Carter, Chris Scott, Jerricho Cotchery, Ramon Foster. No real surprises as Jerricho Cotchery was expected to sit out today. Interesting that Cortez Allen gets the nod over
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 – Baltimore 17
9/11 We Never Forget: Today marks the 10th year anniversary of 9/11 and I’m sure no one forgets the impact those events had on our nation. Today is a day of remembrance and my prayers go out to those in need and who were affected by the tragedy..

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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