The House That Hines Built
Radio: DVE and other affiliates
What To Watch For
1. Three Headed Monster
This will be the first time this season that the Steelers top three running backs figure to suit up for a game. In the two games that Mendenhall played, Jonathan Dwyer didn't get a helmet because of some combination of the numbers game and him fumbling in Oakland. Now, with Big Ben out, the Steelers figure to deploy all three of their backs - Mendenhall, Redman, and Dwyer in a three-pronged rushing attack against the Ravens 26th-ranked run defense. The Steelers ability to control the clock on offense with the running game and keep the Ravens out of the end zone on defense will be the biggest factor in whether or not we can keep this game close and have a chance to win. The Ravens have given up over 100 yards rushing in 6 of their 9 games, so they can be exploited on the ground.
2. Lord Byron's Cannon
As you may have heard at some point in time during his 10-year NFL career, Byron Leftwich has a long windup. Like a really, really long windup. Long enough that if he started at the time you started reading this paragraph he would just be releasing the ball right now. However, what critics of his long windup usually fail to mention is that he has an absolute cannon for an arm. There won't be any finesse passes with Leftwich under center. These are going to be lasers heading towards our receivers. The good thing is that while he won't be making any "touch" passes, we might finally get to see him throw some bombs to Mike Wallace, especially considering the Ravens are going to be without their top two corners.
3. 31 > 20
Ed Reed is capable of taking a game over. As a free safety, he's been the best in the game for the last decade (Troy is a strong safety, remember). However, Reed has not been at his best this season and from what I can tell as an outsider, the bigger difference-maker in the Ravens secondary has been strong safety Bernard Pollard. Pollard is the leading tackler on the team and figures to spend a lot of time down in the box defending against the run. As strange as it is to say, it will be more important for Leftwich to identify where Pollard is on any given play than Reed. If Pollard is down in the box, running the ball probably isn't going to go too well. If Pollard is playing deep, run the ball all day.
4. Stop Ray Rice
The Ravens came out this season with a no huddle offense but it still runs through Ray Rice. Rice has 144 carries and 35 receptions on the season and the Ravens will look to get the ball in his hands any way they can - running, draws, screens, swing passes, etc. Stopping Rice is going to mean the front seven is going to have to have their best game of the season. They can't be letting blocks come to them or overpurusing the ball like they did against Kansas City. If Rice gets a cut-back lane, it won't be an 8 or 9 yard gain like it was for Jamaal Charles. It will be a 20 or 30 yard gain. And then we're in trouble. The defensive line has to fill their gaps and keep the Ravens linemen off the linebackers so Foote and Timmons can flow to the ball and make plays. Harrison and Woodley must set the edge and not let Rice get to the outside where he can turn on the jets.
The Ravens offense has been efficient with the ball this season, only turning it over 9 times on the season. Of those 9, Flacco has accounted for the majority of them, throwing 7 interceptions. The Ravens have won the turnover battle in all but one of their games this season (a loss to the Texans which was the only game they were thoroughly dominated in). In fact, the Ravens have only turned it over more than once in a game 3 times and two of those games were losses. If the Steelers want to beat the Ravens, the defense is going to have to generate turnovers and the offense must take care of the ball. The Steelers have done a very good job this season not turning the ball over, only committing 9 turnovers, but that number is somewhat misleading as the team has recovered 9 of its 14 fumbles. If we are going to beat the Ravens, we can not turn the ball over and will have to take it away from them. This is going to take a complete team effort, but there's no reason it can't be done.
If you don't already hate the Ravens, watch this to get your blood boiling:
The Ravens have invoked the Curse of Cope. No punishment can be severe enough.
Here we go.