Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Game Time: NBC (8:20 PM ET): Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer (Field reporter).
Odds: Ravens are 3 point favorites.
Series: Pittsburgh leads 17-12
The Latest Buzz
The AFC North division title is on the line tonight in the most heated rivalry in football. Both teams have identical records at 8-3, conference records at 6-2 and division records at 2-1. Most importantly, Baltimore currently leads the season series, defeating the Steelers 17-14 in week 4.
A loss by Pittsburgh would basically put the Steelers two games back as the Ravens would own the head-to-head tie breaker.
10 Things to Watch
1. Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers all-pro quarterback will wear a metal plate to protect the inner sole of his right foot, an injury that is causing him considerable pain. All eyes will be on Roethlisberger’s ability to move around the pocket tonight.
Since 2008, when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco came on board, quarterback play has been the difference in every matchup.
Roethlisberger is 7-2 all-time against Baltimore, 5-0 against the Ravens since 2007, including a 4-0 record against the Ravens during the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco era. In 9 career games, Roethlisberger has 14 TDs – 8 INTs and an 84.0 passer rating against Baltimore.
2. James Harrison: – All of the buzz around James Harrison is what’s coming out of his check book as the league has leveled Harrison with a total of $125,000 in fines this season.
The next head-to-head hit or flagrant foul, will be a suspension for Harrison. Like Roethlisberger, all eyes are going to be on Harrison who is not going to adjust his game.
Harrison is having an MVP type season and is the 1st Steeler to have 3 consecutive seasons with 10+ sacks.
From a scouting report standpoint tonight, Harrison has a favorable matchup going up against a banged up Michael Oher who is bothered by a sprained knee.
3. More No Huddle?
With Roethlisberger likely going to be limited when it comes to moving around the pocket and avoiding the rush, it’s going to force the Steelers to put Roethlisberger in the shotgun. That could lead the Steelers to going more huddle than they have this season, something Roethlisberger is seeking to do more.
4. Steelers Rushing Attack: Rashard Mendenhall will be a focal point in the rushing game tonight as the Steelers will look to have a balanced attack to get the play-action pass into the offense with Roethlisberger ailing.
Due to serious issues on the O-line, it remains to be seen if the Steelers can establish the run effectively.
Mendenhall has rushed for 962 yards and 9 touchdowns in 11 games and needs 38 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and one rushing TD to become the 5th running back in Steelers history to have 10+ rush TDs in single season.
Mendenhall has had success against Baltimore of late, rushing for 79 yards and 2 TD’s in week 4 and last season in a week 12 matchup in Baltimore, Mendenhall racked up 95 yards on the ground, averaging 4.0 yards per carry with Dennis Dixon at the helm.
However, that was a different Steelers offensive line that included Max Starks and Willie Colon two of the team’s top O-linemen.
Mendenhall who is 4th in the NFL with 254 touches is expected to slowly see his workload decrease this season.
Based on this week’s practice, Isaac Redman is expected to get more involved with the offense to alleviate Mendenhall’s workload and Mewelde Moore will remain a focal point on passing downs.
An under-rated player in tonight’s game could be Moore on third downs who has become an asset on third downs in the short-passing game.
In his last 3 games, Moore has 12 receptions for 129 yards and has become a target for Roethlisberger.
5. Ravens attacking Roethlisberger: The biggest concern for Pittsburgh is clearly keeping Roethlisberger upright. The Steelers have given up 28 sacks including 5 last week in week 12. The Ravens have the opportunity to dominate the Steelers in the interior and get pressure to Roethlisberger. The Steelers should expect plenty of 7-to-8 man blitzes forcing Roethlisberger to get the ball out quick which is something the Steelers are not dominate at.
Baltimore has a significant favorable matchup in their defensive front against a Steelers offensive line that is getting terrible guard play and have Jonathan Scott in at left tackle.
Baltimore figures to get Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata in several good matchups tonight.
6. Ravens spreading Steelers out: The New England Patriots have once again laid out the blueprint on how to attack a Steelers defense by spreading them out and beating them with short-quick passes to alleviate the pass rush and hitting them with a big play.
Baltimore clearly has the weapons, most notably Ray Rice who has exploited the Steelers in the passing game out of the back field.
7. Pressure Flacco: A key for Pittsburgh defensively is going to be getting pressure to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Pittsburgh will look to blitz Flacco early on downs and get the Ravens into 3rd and long situations.
If the Ravens have early success against the Steelers blitzing schemes, it will force the Steelers hand like the Patriots were able to do in what led to the likes of James Harrison being pressed to defend the pass.
8. Troy Polamalu / Ed Reed: Tonight’s game features two of the games best safeties who in one play can completely change the complexion of the game with just one play.
Polamalu’s is picking up his play and his playmaking ability has been on display of late as he’s aiming for his 3rd straight game with an interception. Pittsburgh needs him to be a difference maker tonight. Pittsburgh is 20-3 when Polamalu records an interception.
Ed Reed has lost a step at age 32 but he’s still a dynamic force in the middle of the field. Like any matchup, they are two players to watch and who could dictate tonight’s winner.
9. Mike Wallace: Wallace leads the NFL, averaging 22 yards per reception and in three games against Baltimore, has 5 receptions for 107 yards per game. Wallace has to find himself more involved especially in the short-passing game. His improved route running makes him a tough matchup for Josh Wilson who gets the primary matchup. Can the Steelers exploit that matchup?
10. Will Baltimore go away from being balanced? It will be interesting to watch if Baltimore or Pittsburgh comes out and tries to win the game in the first half with an aggressive approach.
That has rarely happened in this rivalry.
If one team does, all signs point to Baltimore who could attempt to go away from the run early and attack the Steelers with the pass.
Pittsburgh is allowing a league low 64 rushing yards and will be getting Brett Keisel back tonight.
Inside the Numbers
*Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 17-12
*Pittsburgh has won 3 of the past 5 but Baltimore has won 6 of the last 7 at home.
*Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is 5-3 all-time against Baltimore. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is 2-4 all-time against Pittsburgh.
*Baltimore leads 2010 season series 1-0, defeating the Steelers 17-14 in a week 4 matchup in Pittsburgh. The win is regarded as a stepping stone for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco who came from behind in completing a game-winning 18 yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 seconds remaining in 4th quarter to stun the Steelers.
*Winners of two straight games
*5-1 on the road
*6-2 Conference Record
*16th overall in Total Offense:| 23rd in passing offense | 9th in rushing offense |
*3rd Overall in Total Defense: | 21st in passing defense | 1st in rushing defense |
*Allowing league low 64 rushing yards per game
*Winners of two straight games against Baltimore in month of December
*Winners of two straight games
*5-0 home record
*6-2 Conference Record
*17th Overall in Total Offense: | 16th in passing offense | 14th in rushing offense |
*5th Overall in Total Defense: | 8th in passing defense | 10th in rushing defense
Steelers Player Notes
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is 7-2 all-time against Baltimore including a 4-0 record against the Ravens during the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco era.
In 9 career games, Roethlisberger has 4 TDs – 8 INTs and an 84.0 passer rating against Baltimore.
In 2010, Roethlisberger has thrown 12 TD’s – 4 INT’s for 1,825 yards.
Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 122.2 4th-quarter passer rating this season. 5th in the NFL with a 99.1 passer rating, 7th in the NFL with 260.1 passing yards per game, 3rd in the NFL averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, 2nd in the NFL averaging 13.3 yards per completion.
RB RASHARD MENDENHALL has rushed for 962 yards and 9 touchdowns in 11 games. Mendenhall needs 38 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and needs one rushing TD to become the 5th running back in Steelers history to have 10+ rush TDs in single season. Tied career-high with 2 rushing Touchdowns in the Steelers last game vs. Baltimore on Week 4.
WR HINES WARD posted his 3rd 100-yard receiving game of season last week (107) against the Buffalo Bills. Ward leads the Steelers with 40 receptions on the season.
Since ’09, Pittsburgh has a 7-1 record when Ward has 100+ recieving yards.
WR MIKE WALLACE averages 21.4 yards per catch vs. Ravens, 5 receptions for 107 recieving yards in 3 career games against Baltimore. Wallace leads the NFL in averaging 22 yards per reception. His 8 touchowns rank 8th in the NFL.
LB LAWRENCE TIMMONS leads the Steelers with 97 tackles.
S TROY POLAMALU is eyeing a 3rd straight game with an interception. Polamalu leads the Steelers with 4 INT’s and the Steelers have a 20-3 record (.870) when Polamalu has INT.
LB JAMES HARRISON (10) is 1st Steeler to have 3 consecutive seasons with 10+ sacks and is having an MVP type season.
Baltimore Ravens Player Notes
At home in 2010, QB JOE FLACCO has 10 TDs – 1 INT and an impressive 111.2 passer rating. Flacco is 2-4 all-time vs the Pittsburgh Steelers and 0-4 against Ben Roethlisberger.
Flacco has thrown for 18 touchdowns – 8 INT’s and 2,722 yards this season.
3rd year pro RB RAY RICE has averaged 113 All-Purpose yards in 3 career starts against Pittsburgh.
Rice needs 3 receptions to surpass JAMAL LEWIS (160) for the most career receptions by a Ravens RB in franchise history. Rice has rushed for 818 yards this season and ranks 2nd in the AFC among RBs with 47 catches this season. Rice averages 90.6 rush yards per game at home.
WR ANQUAN BOLDIN had 7 receptions for 68 yards against the Steelers in week 4. Boldin has 51 receptions for 656 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. Boldin has just two 100+ yard receiving games this year and has only collected 30+ receiving yards once in his last 4 games.
WR DERRICK MASON led team with 80 reception yards in last game vs. Pitttsburgh. Since 2008, in 6 games against Pittsburgh, Mason has collected 34 receptions for 420 yards and 1 touchdown.
WR T.J. HOUSHMANDZADEH caught game-winning 18-yard TD pass in last game vs. Steelers.
TE TODD HEAP has touchdown receptions in 2 of past 3 games for Baltimore as he’s starting to get more involved in the passing game.
Including postseason, LB TERRELL SUGGS has 11 career sacks against Steelers. Suggs leads the Ravens with 7.5 sacks this season.
LB RAY LEWIS leads the Ravens with 95 tackles.
All-pro Safety ED REED has played in 5 games this season and has a team-high 4 interceptions.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 24 – Baltimore 17