This is the one match-up that is most difficult for me to write.
Steelers on Offense:
Well, considering it is an inexperienced quarterback at the helm of a fairly short-handed offense, I think they have done very well so far. It is here where he began last year, that he must end his current journey.
He may have led them to a 3-0 start, but it will not continue here. Yes he played well, but he had trouble as well. The thing is...he will have his toughest game yet against this year's Ravens squad. They are improved on both sides of the ball and at most positions. They picked up plenty of terrifying defensive players in the draft as well.
Just a quick note, I think Terrence Cody is super overrated, and just a big fat blob of bust that will show as soon as he gets his paycheck.
Back to the point. I don't expect much at all from the Steelers in this game. I think the Steelers' offense can only be useful with Ben at the helm.
Mendenhall will run into a massive line, and I think he will either be sort of frightened to face Ray Lewis again after that rookie season-ending injury, or he will be the hard-runner I have come to enjoy. I am sort of in the middle on this and expect less than four YPC in this game.
I say the Steelers lose this battle without Big Ben. I suspect different later in the season though...
Steelers on Defense:
I have been one of many football fans who are somewhat frightened by the Ravens' off-season acquisitions. They picked up a multitude of players, including such useful receivers as Donte Stallworth and of course Anquan Boldin. They made great strides, but I honestly think that the Steelers' secondary will be able to cause some problems with their Super Bowl-winning set of defensive backs.
McFadden has returned and actually signed a long-term deal with the team.
Ike Taylor will be able to use his top five man coverage skills to shut down almost any of the Ravens receivers. As long as he doesn't need to catch the ball, he is a top five corner in the NFL. Yes I know that's important, but so is stopping receivers completely.
William Gay, while hated deeply, now is back in his original and destined spot of nickel back. That should improve his usefulness EXPONENTIALLY. That is where he belongs, and while sad for the veteran, he is a better player than DeShea Townsend at this stage in his career.
I say Ray Rice does okay averaging at max 4.1 YPC. The Steelers upgraded their defense at almost every position throughout the off-season, and I think that will work in their favor in this game.
I say that this match-up is a toss up. It really comes down to whoever can get in the end zone as with every other game and team, but I do not see a high score at all.
If Mendenhall plays well and Dixon doesn't throw an interception, Steelers 17-14.
If Ray Rice plays well and Flacco manages to find his receivers, Ravens 17-14.
This game could go either way and that is why it has two game predictions and two players of the game.
Players of the game
Steelers win: McFadden three - tackles, one interception touchdown, one fumble recovery.
Ravens win: Boldin - six catches, 102 yards, one game-winning touchdown