Pittsburgh Steelers: 10 Matchups To Watch in AFC Showdown Vs Baltimore Ravens
The biannual (and sometimes triannual) Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers contests are routinely the must-see games to watch every season.
The Ravens come in at 2-1 and the Steelers have started the season 3-0 without Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers will look to go into their bye week undefeated and in great shape with Ben set to return in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns.
Here are some of the key matchups to keep an eye on when watching this important divisional battle.
Maurkice Pouncey VS. Haloti Ngata
The Steelers drafted Pouncey in the first round of this year’s draft as the future at center. Pouncey earned the right in the preseason to be the starting center this season.
Through the first three weeks, Pouncey has not disappointed and has probably been the Steelers' best offensive lineman.
Pouncey will have his hands full this weekend in his hardest test yet against the Ravens' Haloti Ngata.
Ngata is one of the best defensive tackles in the league and likes to live in the opponent’s backfield.
Pouncey will look to neutralize Ngata and keep the Steelers' running attack on schedule.
Rashard Mendenhall VS. Ray Lewis
Rashard Mendenhall is in his first full season as the starting running back for the Steelers and is currently fourth in the league in rushing with 332 yards.
Mendenhall has been one of the biggest reasons for the Steelers 3-0 start exemplified by his game winning touchdown run in week one against the Falcons.
I’m sure though that Mendenhall has not forgotten that Ray Lewis ruined his rookie year by fracturing his shoulder in Rashard’s first-ever career start.
Ray Lewis has shown that he is still one of the best linebackers in the game and one of the most ferocious hitters.
Mendenhall will attempt to keep the Steelers hot streak going and will need to stay away from Ray Lewis as much as possible to accomplish that.
Troy Polamalu VS. Joe Flacco
Whether you want to give Troy the MVP or Comeback Player Award or nothing at all, there is no doubt that he is one of, if not, the best defensive player in the NFL.
Troy has two interceptions in three games and his presence in the secondary has brought back that dominating Steelers defense we are all accustomed to seeing.
Joe Flacco has not exactly had the great start to his season that most experts were predicting, even though I am well aware he threw three touchdowns against the Browns this past weekend.
As it stands, Flacco has four touchdown passes to five interceptions so far this season and will be looking for Polamalu wherever he is on the field.
Troy will not be making life easy for Flacco this week and will be lurking anywhere and everywhere to confuse the Ravens quarterback.
Antonio Brown VS. Ravens Kickoff Team
Antonio Brown was an afterthought for most fans when the Steelers drafted him in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
Brown then earned a spot on the roster during the preseason but was inactive for the first game of the season against the Falcons.
Fellow rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders then went down with an injury and Brown got and made the most of his opportunity with an 89-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff against the Titans.
The Ravens kickoff unit has given up 31.2 yards on average per kickoff return without giving up a touchdown yet this season.
Brown averages about 34-35 yards per return with that one touchdown and the Steelers need him to be a continued source of excitement and for him to continue to give them a short field.
Lawrence Timmons VS. Ray Rice/Willis McGahee
After being used sparingly in his first two years, Lawrence Timmons was expected to step right into the starting role last season.
Hampered by injuries, Timmons did not have the breakout season many expected him to have, but this season he has been nothing short of a beast.
Timmons is second in the NFL with 33 tackles and has shown speed and explosiveness at the linebacker position for the Steelers.
That does not bode well for Ravens running back Ray Rice, who is trying to recover from a bruised knee suffered last week against the Browns.
Whether it is Rice or Willis McGahee or even Le’Ron McClain at the running back spot for the Ravens, they are going to have to deal with the emergence of Lawrence Timmons.
James Harrison/Lamar Woodley VS. Michael Oher/Marshal Yanda
The Pittsburgh Steelers have two of the best outside linebackers in the league with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
Harrison has been a force this season with three sacks in three games with two forced fumbles and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 2.
Woodley has been just as good with two sacks so far this season with one forced fumble and one interception.
Both Harrison and Woodley have also been stout against the run and have been big in helping the Steelers be third in the league against the run.
The Baltimore Ravens offensive line has only given up three sacks this season but will no doubt have a hard time against two of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Casey Hampton VS. Matt Birk
Casey Hampton has been hampered by a hamstring injury all season so far and has not been able to really contribute anything to the defense.
In his stead Chris Hoke, who is injured now, has been doing a more than serviceable job for the Steelers at the defensive tackle position.
With Hampton back the Steelers defense will be even better than they already have been this season, which is scary considering that they have looked dominant.
Lining up in front Hampton will be Ravens center Matt Birk, who will look to take advantage of the nose tackle coming off injury.
If Hampton can hold the point of attack against Birk, that will allow the Steelers linebackers to roam free and shut down the Ravens offense.
Ike Taylor VS. Anquan Boldin
I was a big fan of Anquan Boldin when he was with the Cardinals and was really disappointed when I found out that he went to the Ravens.
Boldin is one of the toughest receivers in the league and caught three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco last week against the Browns.
Ike Taylor does not get the respect and recognition he deserves in the league for being one of the best cover corners in the NFL.
Taylor would be more recognized if he did not have the bricks for hands that could be seen last weekend when Ike dropped an easy interception right to him.
If Ike can do a good job taking Boldin away in the game, that will put more pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco to have to find a different receiver, which may make it more likely that he throw an interception.
Charlie Batch VS. Dawan Landry/Tom Zibikowski
Charlie Batch surprised everyone in Week 3 against the Buccaneers by throwing three touchdown passes and seemingly waking the Steelers offense up.
Batch did throw two interceptions in the game, however, and will need to take care of the ball against a team like the Ravens.
The Steelers need Charlie to be able to make some throws against a very stout Ravens defense and capitalize on the safeties coming down into the box to stop the run.
Both Landry and Zibikowski have been taking over for the injured Ed Reed in the Ravens secondary and will look to stop Charlie Batch from burning the Ravens deep.
If Charlie can keep his composure and manipulate the safeties, there should be big plays open against the Ravens defense.
Mike Wallace VS. Chris Carr/Fabian Washington
Mike Wallace broke through last weekend against the Buccaneers and scored the first two receiving touchdowns of the season for the Steelers.
With the Steelers running the ball so effectively this season, Wallace should be able to break some big plays off of play action.
Against the Ravens Wallace’s deep play presence will be paramount and will allow things to open up underneath more for players like Hines Ward and Heath Miller.
The Ravens are actually No. 1 right now in the league in passing defense and either Carr or Washington will be trying to shut Wallace down this weekend.
If Mike Wallace can beat the coverage and get open down the field on Sunday, Charlie Batch will be able to make some big plays and open up even more holes in the running game.