It is always tough to predict what strengths and weaknesses will help or hinder a team in any given week. Add to that the intense division rivalry that exists between the Steelers and the Ravens and it becomes even harder. However, there are some interesting statistical comparisons that may point to how things will play out. You can never rule out how emotions will impact the game and Sunday’s game will be no exception.
The defenses look somewhat similar. The Steelers and Ravens have the same number of sacks: 16 against their opponents. As expected, the Ravens’ linebackers account for the majority of the sacks but eight different players are credited with sacks so far this year. The Steelers have nine players who contributed to sacks and the spread among positions is similar. Ngata may get a lot of the attention, particularly after breaking Roethlisberger’s nose before, but he’s not the only player who will keep the front line busy. Doubling up on him will leave a hole for other tough defenders. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Harrison is not creating his normal fear factor because teams have figured out that he’s not 100%. Don’t get me wrong, he remains valuable because of his experience, but he’s not overpowering the front line too often. Timmons is stepping out of the shadows. LeBeau noted in his weekly Thursday chat with reporters that Timmons has been lining up in Polamalu’s position on third down and is very effective in that role. It would be great to see some more interceptions from him this week.
The two teams have some similar offensive stats. Amazingly, the Steelers and the Ravens both have 17 offensive touchdowns. With their different records, I thought the Raven’s totals would be higher by at least 5. The Steelers have 6 rushing TDs and 11 passing TDs while the Ravens have 9 and 8. This also surprises me because I thought they would have more passing TD than rushing TDs given Flacco’s desire to throw the ball. If the Steeler’s defensive front line can keep the running game shut down, theoretically Baltimore’s offense shouldn’t be on the field much.
I listened to Haley’s discussion with reporters and noted some buzz words about Leftwich: “IT factor,” “moxie,” “veteran,” and several others that I didn’t write down. Haley also asserted that there isn’t an offensive system, there isn’t a Haley system, and you must create a playbook that uses the players’ strengths. Ok, I may not buy that “there isn’t a Haley system” but you do like to hear that he acknowledges that Byron isn’t Ben and they need to adapt things for Byron and Charlie. So, I guess that means Charlie Batch will be dressed and active this Sunday. I was a little shocked by the “emergency QB” designation on Heath Miller and hoping that wasn’t going to carry over.
Based on the average per game, the teams seem to be about even. The Steelers are averaging 67.1 penalty yards per game and the Ravens 68.7. The Raven’s penalties per game average is 7.8, up from 5.4 last year. The Steelers average of 6.3 is the same as last year but the number could jump due to the loss of Roethlisberger and that continuity.
So, the stats suggest the teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest. Numbers may not lie, but they sure can be twisted to portray whatever someone wants to show. I hope this shows that regardless of the quarterback situation, the TEAM is the sum of its parts and if everyone does what they are supposed to do, a win is possible. I’m hoping the Ravens come in overconfident because Roethlisberger is out and the Steelers take advantage. There are no numbers to help with that – it’s all emotion.
Statistics came from Steelers.com, baltimoreravens.com and teamrankings.com