The Ravens dropped a frustrating game last week at home to the Green Bay Packers. The Baltimore defense put in a solid effort as they were able to slow Aaron Rodgers and his potent receivers (mainly by sending them to the sidelines) but still had difficulties halting the Packer rushing attack.
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The Ravens offense continued to sputter and didn’t get things rolling until the final quarter. It proved too little, too late as Green Bay came away with the win 19-17 dropping the Ravens to .500.
This week Baltimore travels to Heinz field to take on dreaded division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The teams split last season and as usual regardless of records it should be a hard-hitting contest, close contest.
Let’s take a look at a few of the important match-ups for this Sunday’s game:
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Steelers Strong Safety Troy Polamalu
Flacco has so far put together an uneven 2013 campaign. While his passing yardage numbers may be up his turnovers still outpace his touchdowns. Flacco is best when he’s able to manage the game, and take his shots on play-action and isn’t the type of quarterback that needs to throw forty times a game.
Luckily there’s plenty of familiarity in playing in Pittsburgh and that familiarity has breed success as of late. This weekend Flacco is looking to win his fourth straight regular season game at Heinz Field. In the previous three games there he’s led game winning drives (2010-TJ Housch and 2011-Torrey Smith) and completed 62 percent of his passes. Another key in that is keeping turnovers to a minimum.
That is where Polamalu comes in. Age and injuries may not have the future Hall of Famer playing up to usual standards but over the years he has shown an ability to make the game changing play. He will need to be identified when he freelances to blitz and then he could be exposed in pass coverage.
Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith vs. Steelers Cornerback Ike Taylor
Smith has been one of the most consistent receivers in the league where he is third in yardage. Last week he was totally out of the equation as he was held to just one catch for twelve yards. Baltimore needs to get him involved with screens, slants, crosses and the occasional post. Basically anyway they can, if they hope to finally get the offense to start quickly especially on the road.
Taylor is another player that the Ravens know all too well. Currently he isn’t doing anything special with four passes defensed and zero interceptions but he’s known as a trash talker and tries to get a mental edge during games. Still he hasn’t given up a touchdown yet this season and he’ll need to keep that streak alive to keep the Ravens top scoring weapon quiet.
Ravens Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs vs. Steelers Offensive Tackle Kelvin Beachum
Pittsburgh has encountered Offensive line issues much like the Ravens have this season. As they ready to play this Sunday it appears as if former Seventh-Round pick Kelvin Beachum will get the call to keep Sizzle out of the backfield. It will be his second start of the season and he’ll have a tall task ahead of him.
Suggs is having a great year with seven sacks but was shut out last week. He’ll likely be extra amped to play rival Ben Roethlisberger who missed both games last season. Suggs often brings his best in these rivalry games so his play could be crucial to Baltimore’s success.
Ravens Cornerback Lardarius Webb vs. Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown
It appears that Pittsburgh made the right move in letting Mike Wallace sign with Miami. Antonio Brown has proven to be a more than capable replacement as the team’s top target in a passing attack that is ranked Seventh in the NFL. Much like Torrey Smith, Brown gets the bulk of the targets and can beat you deep.
Webb did a decent job against Jordy Nelson limiting him to four grabs though he did hit for a huge touchdown later in the game. Teams are starting to test Webb more and they are having success when doing so. According to PFF, Webb’s been targeted 40 times over 6 games where he’s allowed 62.5% of those passes to be completed. He remains confident but he’ll need to continue to work back into form to become the top cornerback again.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Michael Oher vs. Steelers Outside Linebacker LaMarr Woodley
The Pittsburgh defense hasn’t been able to generate their usual pressure and as a result haven’t been able to turn over the opposition nearly as much as they’d like. Not so for Woodley who has four sacks in five games. He may be the only true threat with Jarvis Jones a possible scratch with a concussion. Still the Steelers have one of the best pass defenses statistically this season.
The Ravens allowed five sacks last week against the Packers and they must improve if the offense is to truly take off in Pittsburgh this week. Oher has quietly been one of the most consistent lineman among a group that has struggled all year. He must play well this week against one of the league’s best.