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Sunday Match-Up: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh


“Even The Score”

It is a rivalry game as Baltimore (8-6) heads to Pittsburgh (7-7) to battle it out in a game that has huge playoff implications.  The Steelers have playoff life as QB Roethlisberger went on a tear against the Packers throwing for 503 yards in a win last Sunday.  They would like nothing more than to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs in order to keep their own Wild-card hopes alive.  Baltimore has the same thing in mind and with a win their chances to make it to the Playoffs will be all but secured.

Injury Impact

The Ravens suffered another loss in the secondary as rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb is out for the season with an injury.  Webb’s productivity as the teams kick returner will also be missed as well. The status of Safety Ed Reed is still up in the air; the secondary will have to step up to the challenge.

The Steelers

OFFENSE: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still remains a master of improvisation and is putting up excellent numbers throwing for over 3800 yards. However, the QB has taken too many sacks (a total of 43) due to his effort to try to extend plays and also in part to inconsistency at the offensive line.  The ability to connect on passes under pressure makes Roethlisberger a dangerous quarterback. The team ranks 6th in passing, averaging 265 yards per game.

Rashard Mendenhall leads the rushing attack, RB Willie Parker is limited in attempts and Mewelde Moore gets some touches, also serving as a safety valve out of the backfield. The rushing attack is ranked 19th in the league and the team averages around 119 yards per game. Mendenhall has been good, but may lack the breakaway runs the team is looking for.  Mendenhall averages 4.8 yards a carry and has rushed for 978 yards.

Three excellent receivers are at Roethlisberger’s disposal.  Hines Ward leads the team in receptions with 83. WR Santonio Holmes is second with 73 with 1157 yards. Holmes speed and game changing catches makes any defense draw attention to him in coverage. Tight end Heath Miller is a solid receiver and an important piece to the offense.  Miller has 68 receptions averaging 10.3 yards per catch. Mike Wallace, the up and coming receiver, has 34 receptions. Wallace had a dramatic TD reception in the closing seconds of lasts weeks’ game versus Green Bay.

Lately:  The team has gotten away from their running identity, and they rely on the passing game for much of their offense.  Roethlisberger has the ability to attack defenses and has the weapons at the receiver positions to make big plays downfield.

DEFENSE:  The Steelers are all about putting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run.  The team leads the NFL in rush defense, allowing an average of 83.1 yards a game.  DE/OLB James Harrison with 10 sacks and LB LaMarr Woodly with 9.5 sacks bring the heat.  The anchor DT Casey Hampton is strong upfront and a challenge to any line. DE Bret Keisel is another key component to the defense. The strong line backing core with OLB Woodley, ILB Lawrence Timmons and ILB James Farrior (6 sacks and 31 assists) excel in blitz schemes and pressure.

If there is one weakness it is the pass defense; the unit ranks 18th in the league, allowing 221 points per game. One reason for this drop off is that Safety Troy Polamalu has been sidelined with a knee injury. Tyrone Carter has filled in as safety.  Cornerbacks Desha Townsand, Ike Taylor and William Gay are good players but the absence of Polamalu has been a factor. The secondary has given up a few too many plays this year.

Lately: The Steelers rank 1st against the run and James Harrison leads the team with 10 sacks and LB LaMarr Woodly has 9.5 sacks. Opposing offenses must have a game plan to slow down the pass rush.

MATCH-UPS: Chalk It Up!

Ravens offensive game plan: In the first meeting the team ran the ball well on Pittsburg. The unit must commit to the run in order to open up the passing game. The Steelers have struggled against the pass; the Ravens must attack and be aggressive. Safety Troy Polamalu may play in this game, but the Ravens still have to take advantage of any openings in the secondary.

Keys: Be aggressive and creative. Cam Cameron should continue to throw some new wrinkles and formations– keep the defense guessing.

Offensive line vs. Steelers D: The status of Jared Gaither is a factor and hopefully he will be back for this match-up. RT Cousins has filled in well, but the competition he faced was not like the Steelers pass rush.  There has been little reported on Gaither’s injury and status. Because Gaither is coming of an injury it will be interesting to see if he starts at Right tackle and Oher at the Left tackle. 

Keys:  In previous meetings the Steelers pass rush has been able to put pressure on Flacco, protection must be consistent. Minimizing the pass rush of LB Harrison and Woodly must be a priority.

RB Rice vs. #1 Run Defense: Though Rice tore holes in Chicago’s defense in the first half, he didn’t in the 3rd quarter. Chicago had some success against stopping Rice in the second half and if the O-line wants to succeed they need to open lanes up for 4 quarters. 

Ravens defensive game plan: The defense has played better of late, but must get pressure on Roethlisberger. The secondary is at a disadvantage losing CB Webb and possibly not having Ed Reed in the line-up

Keys: Steelers LT Starks gave up 2 sacks last game and the O-line has been porous. If LB Terrell Suggs can apply pressure it will play a huge part in the team’s success.  Containing the receivers is going to be a challenge.

Expect everything: The Steelers do have QB Dennis Dixon who ran for a TD against the Ravens. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see Dixon in on a few plays.

Ravens Secondary vs: WR Holmes, WR Ward & TE Miller:  The Ravens will have to decide who is covering WR Hines Ward; will it be Frank Walker or CB Carr? Cornerback Foxworth will be covering WR Santonio Holmes and he will have to have one of his better games to keep the explosive playmaker in check.

Keys: Minimize the large passing plays. Tight end Heath Miller must be contained.

Rahsard Mendenhall vs. Ray Lewis: Ray Lewis and the ‘D’ can’t let running back Rashard Mendenall run for big gains as he did in the previous match-up. With Suggs back in the lineup it may improve the Ravens chances of slowing down the Steelers running back.

Special Teams: With Lardarius Webb out the team may go with Chris Carr as the kick returner. The Steelers have had problems on special teams this year giving up some kickoff returns for TD’s—it has cost the team a few games. 

A Big Test For Coach Harbaugh: A win in Pittsburg would be an important win in Coach Harbaugh’s tenure in Baltimore.

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3 Responses to “Sunday Match-Up: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh”

  1. […] News+Features · Columns · Comics · More Feeds. © 2009 Baltimore City Paper. Quantcast. Sunday Match-Up: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh » Ravens Gab – 12/23/2009 Even The Score” It is a rivalry game as Baltimore (8-6) heads to […]

  2. This is definitely going to be the game of the week. This will be the truest test for Flacco this season. We need Ray Rice to have a big day as well.

    Go Ravens!!!
    Baltimore Ravens Chat

  3. Gene says:

    Yes, Rice will need to have a great game. Flacco should be fine, he’s got his confidence back. All he needs is his O-line to protect him from the pass rush.

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