It’s Ravens week once again, as the Steelers head to Baltimore looking to split the season series, and to clinch a postseason birth for the second consecutive year. In the first matchup back on October 1st, in Pittsburgh, the Steelers lost 23-20 as Josh Scobey missed two potential game winning field goals in regulation. In overtime, rather than sending Scobey out to attempt a game winning 52 yard field goal, Mike Tomlin chose to go for it on fourth down. The Steelers ended up turning it over on downs to the Ravens, who drove down to the Pittsburgh 35, where Justin Tucker kicked the game winner from 52 yards. The win was the first of the season for Baltimore, and dropped the Steelers to 2-2. Since that first meeting, Pittsburgh has gone 7-3 and has replaced Josh Scobey with Chris Boswell, while Baltimore has continued to struggle.
Ben Roethlisberger will be playing for the Steelers this time around, while the Ravens will be without Joe Flacco, who is out for the year with a knee injury of his own. Even with a healthy Flacco, the Ravens didn’t have much of a chance of sweeping the Steelers this season, seeing as how they aren’t nearly as efficient or effective on offense as they have been in the last few years, for various reasons. Defensively, the Ravens got nothing for an offense as explosive as what the Steelers have.
When the Steelers have the Ball:
The Steelers were able to run the ball on Baltimore in their first meeting, as Le’Veon Bell ran for 129 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Deangelo Williams should be able to find similar success on Sunday, running behind a line that has gotten better with Villenueva in the lineup. When Ben elects to put the ball in the air, he’ll be facing a secondary that has given up 3,019 yards passing, a rate of 274.5 yards per game. On top of that, Baltimore CB Jimmie Smith, if he plays, will be hindered by an injured hamstring. He would be the guy shadowing Antonio Brown. After what they did to the Broncos defense, Ben and Brown are probably lighting the torch already, because they’re going to get little resistance from a depleted Ravens secondary. Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton should get plenty of targets, as well, on a day where it’s going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.
When the Ravens have the Ball:
The Ravens are down to QB’s Jimmy Clausen, Matt Shaub, and Ryan Mallett, which is much more than a few rungs lower on the ladder than what Michael Vick and Landry Jones brought to the table in the first matchup. Starting Jimmy Clausen would be the Ravens way of waving the white on the rest of the season, for the simple fact that he wasn’t good enough to keep his spot on a weak Chicago Bears roster. Clausen doesn’t scare anyone, even when he has all day to throw the ball. When he is under pressure, he tends to panic and will let it fly. Don’t be surprised if the secondary ends up with multiple interceptions. Already down WR Steve Smith Jr., the Ravens recently put TE Crockett Gilmore on IR as well. Whoever ends up under center, they will have few established weapons to throw to. It’s looking more and more like Javorious Allen might be a majority of the Ravens offense on Sunday.
There should be minimal concern about there being some sort of letdown against Baltimore, following a huge win over Denver, or of this being any sort of a trap game. The Steelers are coming into this one with a chance to clinch a hard earned playoff spot, against a hated division rival. Even though nobody from the Steelers will admit it, this team would relish the opportunity to kick John Harbaugh and his team when they are down, especially in their own building, in front of a crowd full of Steelernation waving those Terrible Towels. The Steelers come into this one as 9.5 point favorites, and by the time it’s over, they could very well put up 40+ points on the board.
Pittsburgh 38-Baltimore 17