TIME: 1:00 PM (EST)
LOCATION: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
BETTING LINE: Ravens (-3)
STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH
Stephon Tuitt- DE
One of the most depressing things about the Steeler’s defense this year has been the lack of sacks by Stephon Tuitt (and in general). After a breakout year last season, Tuitt was expected to make the leap into becoming one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers. Although he has gotten into the backfield on several occasions, he has failed to actually get to the quarterback. Pittsburgh’s issues getting to the quarterback are well known and need to be fixed. Tuitt can help with that by finally having his breakout game of the season against the Ravens average offensive line.
RAVENS PLAYER TO WATCH
Timmy Jernigan- DT
Drafted by the Ravens in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft, Timmy Jernigan has become a monster in the middle of Baltimore’s defense. He is an excellent run defender and possesses the capability to collapse the pocket and get after the quarterback making him one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the game. The Steelers interior linemen need to have a good game regardless of whether or not Ben Roethlisberger returns to the starting lineup. Although he won’t wreck the Steelers offense by himself, the impact that Jernigan has creates numerous opportunities for the rest of the defense to make plays.
STEELERS KEY POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Steelers offensive line needs to play well in order to keep the Raven defenders out of the backfield long enough for the plays to develop. Pittsburgh’s wide receivers are better than Baltimore’s secondary, so they should be able to make plays as long as Ben Roethlisberger/Landry Jones has enough time to get them the ball.
Every week I write about how the Steeler’s pass rush needs to improve and every week I’m disappointed. The Steelers have been so pitiful in the pass rushing department that its almost impressive. If they really want to win this game they need to find a way to get to Joe Flacco to kill drives.
Although the Ravens don’t have any top end receivers, the Steelers secondary will still need to stay vigilant to keep Baltimore from making big plays. Former Steeler Mike Wallace is still one of the fastest players in the league, making him a threat to score every time he touches the ball. To stop him, the Steelers secondary need to be sound in their assignments and keep him in front of them.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
The 4-3 Steelers will travel to Baltimore on Sunday to take on the 3-4 Baltimore Ravens in a matchup that will help determine the winner of the AFC North. A win for the Ravens would automatically launch them into first place of the AFC North with the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh. The Steelers on the other hand have an opportunity to take a full 1+ game lead over all three of their divisional rivals.
This game will be either won or lost in the trenches. The Steelers offensive line will need to work hard to stop the Ravens pass rushers to keep the offense stable. Receivers Antonio Brown and Sammie Coates are both better than their Ravens counterparts; but if their offensive line allows any considerable pressure into the backfield, neither Brown nor Coates will have time to get open.
With Pittsburgh’s vulnerability to the run, Baltimore’s offensive line will look to pave the way for running back Terrance West in the ground game. If their offensive line can establish the run, Joe Flacco will be able to utilize play action and try to get the ball downfield to receivers Mike Wallace and Steve Smith Sr. for a few big plays. By getting up early, Baltimore can run the ball to keep Pittsburgh’s offense off of the field and out of the end zone.
RAVENS KEY POSITION GROUP RATINGS
The Steelers have had issues stopping the run all season which is something that the Ravens can take advantage of. The Ravens will be able to win this game if they can establish an effective running game and control the line of scrimmage. Although not full of studs, the Ravens offensive line is good enough to make a difference.
The receivers for Baltimore are pretty average. Steve Smith Sr. is still effective, but he’s not what he used to be and hurt to top it off. Mike Wallace is the biggest threat in the passing game due to his ability to fly down the field and can score on any play. The Ravens need to find ways to get Mike Wallace the ball in positions where his straight line speed will really be able to hurt Pittsburgh.
The Ravens have a very solid group of linebackers headlined by CJ Mosely and Terrell Suggs. Mosely will have the responsibility of trying to stop Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell while Suggs work on getting to the quarterback. If they can disrupt the Steeler’s offense by limiting Bell and getting to Roethlisberger/Jones, they can really help out their secondary.