Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Phenomenal Previews

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2009

Phenomenal Previews Presents: The 2009 NFL Playoffs (Conference Championships)

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The battle to end all battles. The first and second ranked defenses in the NFL, two young quarterbacks with cannon arms, and two play-making safeties—the battle of the Titans.

Both teams come into this game with similar blueprints—each priding itself on defense, pounding the ball between the tackles, and trying to prove the critics and experts wrong. One is going for a record sixth Super Bowl win while the other is making one last run for Ray Lewis. Who will prevail?

The Steelers' biggest concern coming into this game is the offensive line. Can they hold up like they did against the Chargers? Or will the Ravens studly defense make them look like a JV squad? Is Polamalu’s calf strong enough for another week of play?

They won the previous two meetings—one by an overtime Jeff Reed field goal and the other on a controversial Santonio Holmes' touchdown reception.

The Ravens want this game just as much as the Steelers do. The two teams hate each other. They always play tough against each other—evidenced by low scoring, hard hitting games this season. Can the Ravens overcome fatigue and win this one?

This game has the capability of possibly being the match-up of the year, Super Bowl included. These teams hate each other with a passion and it’s going to be a blood bath—count yourselves lucky to be able to see this battle of two gargantuan defenses.


Steelers' Key Injuries

Troy Polamalu – Calf

Ben Roethlisberger – Concussion


Ravens' Key Injuries

Terrell Suggs – Shoulder


Ravens' Keys to the Game

Blitz, Blitz, Blitz

The key to beating the Steelers' offense is sacking Ben Roethlisberger. Ben’s a tough guy, one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league, but even he can’t take consistent, relentless onslaught by the Ravens. Willie Parker took the load off of him last week— here’s hoping he can do the same this week.

Stop the Run

Yup, once more we see the infamous “stop the run” as being so simple, yet so hard to do with some teams. Parker had 27 attempts for 146 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers.

In comparison, Roethlisberger dropped back only 26 times. The Steelers ran 20 more plays then the Chargers. If Parker can take that kind of load off of Roethlisberger against the Ravens, then it’s going to be tough for Baltimore to come away with the win.

Flacco Has To Get Rid Of It Early

There’s no standing in the pocket for four seconds against the Steelers, or the Ravens for that matter. There’s no waiting for routes to develop. Short, smart, efficient routes are the only option—expect a lot of in, out, and hitch routes and multiple punts in this game.


Steelers' Keys to the Game

Get Parker Started

I was VERY impressed with Parker in the Chargers game. He wasn’t afraid to get hit or hurt again. The Steelers need that attitude again more than ever. Russell’s a monster when it comes to those grind it out downs, 3rd-and-short and such. Get the running game to alleviate the pressure on Roethlisberger and the Steelers will be fine.

Pressure Flacco

Again, I’m REALLY impressed with Flacco—the kid’s got ice in his veins. He reminds me a lot of Roethlisberger. The Steelers' pass rush is nothing short of amazing this year and they’ll be able to pressure Flacco.

If they get to him and make him throw on the run or off his back foot, the game will become interesting. The Steelers' linebackers have very good hands—not even factoring in Polamalu.

Limit Mistakes

Everyone saw what happens when a team turns it over to the Ravens. Ask the Titans, you end up watching the next game on TV. As I’ve said, it’s going to be a battle for field position and every tiny mistake will be blown into huge proportions. Roethlisberger needs to make smart throws—not going for the big play every time.

He needs to get rid of the ball quick because he will not have much time to throw. On defense, the deep ball MUST be defended properly. Ike Taylor got burned by Vincent Jackson at least twice—one resulted in a touchdown and Jackson couldn’t hang onto the other.


TJ’s Prediction

Steelers 17, Ravens 13