Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Baltimore Ravens: 6 Key Personnel Match-Ups
The Steelers and Ravens bring matching 8-3 records into Sunday night's game. The Ravens were victorious the first time these two AFC North bullies met this season. However, Ben Roethlisberger was still serving his suspension and Ed Reed was on the physically unable to perform list.
This game is much more important to both teams than their week four match-up. ESPN computer models suggest that the winner of this game has an 87 percent chance of winning the division. It is highly unlikely that two teams will make the playoffs out of the AFC South or AFC West, meaning that both teams will most likely still make the playoffs. However, clinching the division will guarantee a home game in the playoffs.
The following slides are going to examine key match-ups that will go a long way in determining the winner and loser of this game, and quite possibly the division winner.
Haloti Ngata/Terrell Suggs Vs. Chris Kemoeatu/Jonathan Scott
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It's no secret that the Steelers offensive line has been battling injuries all season. Willie Colon was lost for the year during training camp, which led to the signing of Flozell Adams. Max Starks has also been lost for the season, meaning that both of Pittsburgh's starting tackles will not play another down of football until at least next season.
Jonathan Scott is filling in for Starks. Scott is not performing particularly well and Chris Kemoeatu is incapable of picking up the slack. Kemoeatu performed much better while Max Starks was lining up beside him. The Steelers are having a difficult time gaining yards on the ground to the left side of the field and teams are sending a lot of pressure to that side during passing situations.
It just so happens that the weak side of Pittsburgh's offensive line has to play against the strong side of Baltimore's defense this weekend. This is a match-up that Mike Tomlin is going to have to crack in order to win the game.
It's no secret that the Steelers offensive line has been committing numerous penalties over the past few weeks. If Kemoeatu and Starks are being over-matched on every down, we will see this trend continue. When linemen get beat, they have to resort to holding to help protect the quarterback. If Pittsburgh keeps shooting itself in the foot offensively with holding penalties, this game becomes much more difficult for the team to win.
James Harrison Vs. Michael Oher
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James Harrison has already registered 10 sacks this season, matching his entire output last season. He also has six forced fumbles and two interceptions. He has the ability to make Joe Flacco's day much more difficult.
Harrison has been fined for unnecessary roughness four times this season. He will be forced to straddle a the thin line of playing with intensity without being penalized. Whether one agrees with the roughing the passer penalty that was called against him for hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick or not, it is certain that that penalty was the turning point in the game. The Steelers were dominating every facet of the game until that play and were very fortunate to leave Buffalo with a win.
Not only will James Harrison have to avoid being penalized, but he will have to find a way to beat Michael Oher to get pressure on Joe Flacco. Oher is a second year player that can already be counted among the league's best tackles. He is a big, physical player that will have to keep another big, physical player from getting to his quarterback.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh Vs. William Gay
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Steelers fans are still having nightmares about William Gay's performance against the New England Patriots. He was burned for three Tom Brady touchdown passes to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski. In most games, it seems that the opposing quarterback is able to complete passes to Gay's man at will.
William Gay shows flashes of brilliance from time to time, but seems to have more negative plays than positive. If Houshmandzadeh has a big game against the Steelers, chances are that the game isn't unfolding well for Pittsburgh.
Lawrence Timmons Vs. Ray Rice
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Lawrence Timmons was unable to wrap up Fred Jackson on a screen pass and Jackson promptly scored a touchdown. The Ravens love to run screens.
Earlier this season, the Ravens ran four effective screen passes in the first quarter of their game against Miami. The Steelers generally defend the screen well; however Timmons cannot repeat his mistake against Ray Rice. Rice is much more dangerous than Fred Jackson.
Ed Reed Vs. Bruce Arians
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Ed Reed is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. He can turn a mistake by the quarterback into an easy six points for the Ravens.
Bruce Arians is going to need to gameplan around Reed. Arians has struggled to put together 60 minutes of strong offensive football. His gameplan often seems to get more predictable as the game progresses.
If Ed Reed knows where the ball is going to go on any given play, you can bet that he is probably going to get there first. Bruce Arians needs to make sure he keeps the defense guessing in order to keep Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense on the field. The Steelers offense sometimes has trouble scoring enough points to win the game without spotting the opposition free points.
Troy Polamalu Vs. Cam Cameron
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Cam Cameron has a similar problem as Bruce Arians. Cameron has to account for Troy Polamalu on every single play.
Polamalu can beat a team in so many different ways. He is not quite the ball hawk that Reed is, but he can do it all. It seems like Polamalu always comes through in the clutch, whether that means diving over the offensive line to make a huge tackle in the backfield or coming up with an acrobatic interception to prevent a go-ahead touchdown.
When Troy is playing at his best, it's hard to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.