Week Seven Game Preview and Predictions: Steelers vs. Ravens

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Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers notched their first victory of the 2013 regular season with a 19-6 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium last Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, they will not be able to bask in the glow of their first victory for much longer since they are set to square off against the Baltimore Ravens this evening in a crucial AFC North matchup.

How do I see today’s matchup between the hated rivals? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out, “Steeler Nation:”

 

Pittsburgh’s Offense vs. Baltimore’s Defense

The biggest matchup of this weekend’s game will occur on the edges between Baltimore’s most potent pass-rushing threats (Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and to a lesser extent Courtney Upshaw) and Pittsburgh’s offensive tackles (Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert).

The Steelers are not likely to find much success on the ground against the Ravens’ stout front-seven led by Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, and Daryl Smith. Nobody on Pittsburgh’s roster has accumulated 100 rushing yards during the team’s 1-4 start, and the Steelers rank 31st in rushing yards per game (61.0). Pittsburgh might have to “pass to set up the run” for Le’Veon Bell, Felix Jones, and Jonathan Dwyer this weekend, so stellar efforts much come from Beachum and Gilbert.

Baltimore has racked up 22 sacks through their first six game, and Suggs (7.0) and Dumervil (5.0) have combined to record 12.0 of them. If Beachum and Gilbert can keep the veterans from crashing the edges, Roethlisberger should be able to find the multitude of pass-catching weapons he has at his disposal.

Antonio Brown is on pace to set single-season franchise records for receptions and receiving yards, Heath Miller looks like his old “security blanket” self, and Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are some solid secondary options for “Big Ben” to look for in the intermediate game.

Even if the Steelers are able to move the ball though, they must contend with the Ravens’ stellar red zone defense. Baltimore ranks tied for first in red zone touchdown percentage (25.00%) through their first six games, and Pittsburgh will need “sixes” instead of “threes” if they wish to keep pace with Baltimore’s offense today.

 

Baltimore’s Offense vs. Pittsburgh’s Defense

Like the Steelers, the Ravens have struggled mightily to move the ball on the ground consistently this fall. Unlike Pittsburgh’s issues though, Baltimore’s problems have been a bit of a surprise when one considers that they have one of the most talented “one-two punches” at the running back position with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.

The Ravens have combined to rush for only 2.7 yards per carry (31st) so far this season, and their 72.7 rushing yards per game average (27th) has been nothing to smile about either. To be fair to Baltimore’s running backs, their offensive line has sustained some changes this fall.

Gino Gradkowski has had to replace the unit’s anchor, Matt Birk, and his play from the center position has been inconsistent at best. In addition to Birk’s retirement, the Ravens had to demote veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie for his poor-play and traded for Eugene Monroe.

Desperate for competent play from the blind-side, Baltimore sent two draft picks to Jacksonville for Monroe to shore up the position. It also has not helped that Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, and Michael Oher have not played to the level they did during the previous postseason as well.

Luckily for the Ravens, Pittsburgh’s defense has had trouble stopping the run this fall. The Steelers rank 22nd in rushing yards per game allowed (114.8), and this could very well be the weekend that Rice and Pierce break out if Baltimore’s offensive line can win the battle in the trenches.

While their running game issues have been well-documented, Joe Flacco has been harassed this season in the pocket and not lived up to the lucrative contract he inked during the offseason either.

Flacco has not been well-protected this fall, so it will be up to Pittsburgh’s best pass-rushers to make him pay if he tries to push the ball down the field. The Ravens have allowed a combined 19 sacks during their first six games, and it will be up to LaMarr Woodley to lead the pass-rushing brigade against the “Unibrowed Wonder.”

If Pittsburgh cannot create the necessary amount of pocket-collapse to rattle Baltimore’s signal-caller though, then Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Dallas Clark, Ed Dickson, and rookie sensation Marlon Brown could eat the Steelers secondary alive.

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Topics: Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Elvis Dumervil, Jason Worilds, Joe Flacco, Kelvin Beachum, Lamarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers, Terrell Suggs

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  • Redd Mahoney

    Wow, you must really think the Steelers are God awful! BTW, kudos to young Beachum.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Didn’t count on the Ravens being as god-awful as they were. :)

      • Redd Mahoney

        Told ya the “talent” gap between the Steelers,Ravens, Browns, Bengals wasn’t THAT wide. The Steelers were just plain and just playing lousy so I must say that your criticism was fair. However the season still is not over my friend. :)

        BTW, the Bengals have lost their best corner,Hall for the season….just say’n.

        • Dom DiTolla

          Cincy. still has the best and deepest pass-rush in the division plus the most offensive talent. Steelers will need to win the division to make the postseason.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Pass coverage/pass rush work hand in hand. I don’t have to tell you that. Hall was always placed on an offenses best receiver. If his replacement is not half as good in coverage, even the BEST pass rush won’t get to a QB in time. Remember all of the problems the Steelers secondary had when Ike Taylor went down for the season?

            On Pro Football Talk today it was suggested that because the AFC is not very strong a case can be made that the Steelers don’t necessarily have to catch the Bengals to make the playoffs. But let me just pause about the P-word….that’s WAY down the road.

          • Craig

            2013 AFC North = 2010 NFC West

          • Redd Mahoney

            Nope, gonna take things 1 game at a time. Just wanted the Steeler Nation to know that the season wasn’t over. I’ll leave the season predictions to “experts” like you :)

          • Redd Mahoney

            Not sure what this means but as long as the Steelers keep playing better….I don’t care.

          • Craig

            In 2010 the Seahawks won the NFC West with a record of 7-9 – the only time that has ever happened in the NFL. No team in the AFC is particularly strong, so I can certainly see the team winning the division have a .500 record or worse. It’s not something to be proud of I don’t think….

          • Redd Mahoney

            If the Steelers went 2-14 and won the division and got then hot & won the Super Bowl….I’d be proud as hell! That would be a classic underdog story.Who cares what the perception of their season would be? What do you think they should do…give the championship back?

          • Dom DiTolla

            Really, you suggested the “P” word two weeks ago? Are you backing off of it already?

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