Ravens vs. Steelers: Matchups That Will Determine Outcome of AFC North Clash
The Baltimore Ravens are on the road in Week 7 to take on AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers, and both teams have had their share of struggles early in the 2013 season.
These two teams also have a history of beating up on one another, and it won't shock anyone if this upcoming game ends up devolving from a well-organized football game into a backyard brawl.
Pittsburgh finally won its first game of the season last Sunday on the road against the New York Jets, thanks to the team's first two forced turnovers of the season. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau baited Geno Smith into a couple of bad mistakes, and he'll look to do the same to Joe Flacco at home this weekend.
Baltimore lost last weekend at home to the Green Bay Packers 19-17 to move to 3-3 on the season. The team's offense has suffered due to injuries and the absence of Anquan Boldin and is in desperate need of a spark.
This game could easily come down to the wire. Both teams feature exploitable weaknesses, and the team that wins these upcoming critical matchups will come away with the much-needed victory.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil vs. Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert
Baltimore's defense is ranked No. 3 in the NFL in sacks this year with 22, thanks to the deadly combination of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on the edges. Between the two of them, they've logged 12 of those sacks, as offensive tackles haven't been able to handle the heat.
How many times will Ben Roethlisberger get sacked?
Pittsburgh's offensive line hasn't been a strong unit this year either, allowing 19 sacks in five games. Baltimore could have a huge edge up front when Ben Roethlisberger attempts to run his offense.
Kelvin Beachum is starting on the left side for Pittsburgh right now. He filled in at center earlier this year and has proven to be a valuable player for the Steelers, but he's no match for Suggs and Dumervil.
Gilbert is listed as probable on the team's injury report, but he was limited in practice this week, dealing with a quad injury.
It'll be shocking if Baltimore doesn't capitalize on Pittsburgh's struggling offensive line.
Antonio Brown vs. Lardarius Webb
Even when teams bring pressure against Ben Roethlisberger, he's been able to connect with receiver Antonio Brown with regularity.
Through just five games, Brown has caught 41 passes for 498 yards and two touchdowns. He's caught at least nine passes in each of his last three games, and since Mike Wallace bolted to Miami, he's become Roethlisberger's go-to receiver.
Lardarius Webb was one of the league's top shutdown cornerbacks before getting injured last year. He's struggled a bit since returning to action, as noted by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun:
Webb has been targeted a team-high 40 times through six games and has surrendered 25 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have completed 62.5 percent of their throws in Webb's direction.
Webb is eager to return to his elite form, but he'll have his hands full covering Brown on Sunday. This matchup will be fun to watch.
Ravens' Offensive Line vs. Steelers' Front Seven
Joe Flacco doesn't have many weapons to get the ball to on the perimeter. Torrey Smith and tight end Dallas Clark have been his main go-to receivers of late, but Baltimore's passing game hasn't sparkled.
Which team will win?
As a result, teams have been able to lock down Ray Rice. He's only gained 2.8 yards per carry this season.
Pittsburgh's front seven played well last weekend against the Jets, sacking Geno Smith three times and holding New York to just 83 yards rushing in the game.
If the front seven of the Steelers can control the line of scrimmage against the Ravens, then Pittsburgh will win at home.
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