STEELERS – RAVENS PRE GAME BUZZ
BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-2) @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-3)
Time: 8:20 p.m. | Where: Heinz Field
Odds: Baltimore -3
Inactives: Pittsburgh – Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu, Marcus Gilbert, Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson, DeMarcus Van Dyke | Baltimore – Jimmy Smith, Pernell McPhee, Bobby Williams, Terrence Cody, Ramon Harewood, Deonte Thompson, Asa Jackson
What’s on the Line: CONTROL OF THE AFC NORTH
Control of the AFC North is on the line tonight. With no Ben Roethlisberger for the next couple weeks, the Ravens who have won three of their last four regular season games against the Steelers, including two straight at Heinz Field, will put a serious dent in the Steelers AFC North chances with a win tonight in Pittsburgh.
STEELERS WIN IF………They shut down the Ravens running game. Pittsburgh controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is extremely important tonight but coming out of tonight’s game with a win is going to depend on them making the Ravens one dimensional and shutting down Ray Rice. It’s going to be a difficult task for an iffy Steelers front-seven.
Some other Storylines I’ll be looking for tonight
This is not your typical Ravens defense: Rashard Mendenhall returns to the lineup and will get the start at running back. The Steelers will monitor his workload so we’re going to see Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer share the load at times. This is going to be an area that the Steelers have to have a dominant night and open things up for big plays in the passing game. The Ravens are 26th in the NFL in stopping the run, giving up 132 yards per game and nearly 4 yards per carry. A focus point for the Steelers will be getting Byron Leftwich in third and shorts and establishing the run will go a long way to improving to 7-3 tonight. This is also not your typical Ravens defense in defending the pass. If Byron Leftwich gets time, he’s good enough to pick apart this depleted Ravens secondary and despite his slow release, Leftwich doesn’t get sacked a lot. Baltimore is 22nd in NFL with 16 sacks. Baltimore ranks 27th in the league in defending the pass, giving up 258.2 passing yards per game and teams are completing 61% of passes against the Ravens, averaging 7.3 yards per pass. The Ravens have given up 30 passing plays of 20+ yards. The Steelers who rank first in the NFL in defending the pass, by comparison, have given up just 17 passing plays of 20+ yards…..
Will James Harrison or Terrell Suggs break out tonight? When the Ravens and Steelers get together, whether it’s the regular season or post-season, James Harrison and Terrell Suggs having special games is the norm. Harrison in his last five games vs Ravens (including post-season) has 34 tackles 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Suggs in his last five games (including post-season) vs Steelers has 8.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 1 interception. The Steelers – Ravens rivalry brings out the best in the two. Will that trend continue tonight? Probably not. Harrison at age 34 looks shot and has 25 tackles and 1 sack in 6 games. He’s been invisible the past two weeks in rushing the passer. Of the two, the better bet on is on Terrell Suggs who will be appearing in his fourth game since returning from a torn achilles. Suggs has 10 tackles and 1 sack in three games.