Steelers fans were elated to see Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs tear an achilles tendon. Delighted to see him likely sit out the entire 2012 season. He is the thorn in their side, much like Hines Ward used to be for Baltimore. They hate Terrell Suggs in Pittsburgh more than any other player, and he knows it.
Then the improbable happend. Suggs recovered from said injury and rehabbed in what seemed to be world record time, to return to the field in October. Both Steelers games ahead of him on the schedule. With three games behind him now, no visible lingering side effects, Terrell Suggs is primed for a coming out party in prime time on Sunday.
Ray Lewis isn’t playing, but the real player Pittsburgh wishes wasn’t suiting up is the Dean of “Ball So Hard University”, the 2011 NFL defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs.
In last seasons opener, Suggs tallied three sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and forced two fumbles. Suggs would then notch an INT in their match up later in the year. In 2010 he recorded 5.5 sacks in three Steelers games, including three of those in the playoff game. Ok, Pittsburgh tamed T-Sizzle in his one game against them in 2009 (5 tackles, no sacks, no turnovers). But he had his way again back in 2008 with four sacks and a forced fumble in three games, two of those sacks in the playoffs.
When Steelers QB Byron Leftwich breaks the huddle, he needs to immediately ask himself, “Where’s #55?” Even that might not be good enough.
With no Ben Roethlisberger, I can see the Steelers going to a run heavy game plan to take some pressure off of Byron Leftwich. Terrell Suggs doing what he does best, dominating the Steelers and shutting down that running attack of Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer is one of my keys to a Ravens win on Sunday. Another key to victory, win the turnover battle. In the Harbaugh/Flacco era, the Ravens are 4-6 against Pittsburgh. In those 10 games the Ravens only won the turnover battle twice, both times were in winning efforts last season. So the Ravens are 2-6 when they don’t force Pittsburgh into more turnovers then them. The other key is keeping their composure. These teams hate each other. It will be violent. The pushing and shoving will likely begin right from the start. The Steelers will try to bait them into some excessive jawing, try to get them to throw a punch. But they have to keep their cool. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty at an inopportune time can be the difference in winning and losing in what is always predicted to be a close game. We’ve seen the Ravens take a few dumb penalties like this in earlier games. Please don’t let yourself get put in a position where the referees decide this game.
Previous back up QB’s Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch played okay versus the Ravens in Big Ben’s absence. I expect Byron Leftwich to be, okay. But not a game changer in anyway. The rest of the team and the leagues top defense in particular will keep this game close. The Ravens have their woes on the road. But not in Pittsburgh where Joe Flacco has led game winning touchdown drives in each of the last two games there.
Call it, 19-17 Ravens. A late Justin Tucker FG decides it. It will even be in the open end of Heinz Field just for fun.