Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens: Prime Time Collision on Sunday Night

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2010

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 03:  Charlie Batch #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers hands the ball off to Rashard Mendenhall #34 during the game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 3, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images


Since 2003, the Baltimore Ravens are six and one at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers including three overtime wins in 2003, 2005 and 2009 and a shut-out in 2006.

The only loss at home was in December 14, 2008, when the Ravens fell 13-9 on a spectacular tip-toe catch by former Steeler receiver Santonio Holmes.

Since John Harbaugh became coach of the Ravens in 2008, the Steelers won three of their last five games, losing two in overtime by three points and no Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

This Sunday’s rematch has first place implications in the AFC North Division.

What’s at stake? If the Ravens sweep the Steelers, it will be the second time in their brief history as the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens will have a stranglehold in the division and one of the top seeds in the AFC.

If they lose-they lose the title, No. 2 seed and possibly the playoffs.

The Steelers on the other hand must win or they will technically be two games down with only four games left in the regular season. A loss to the Ravens would put the Steelers in a hole to win all four games and hope the Ravens go two and two.

This scenario is similar to that of the 2005 season when the Steelers had to win their last four games to get a Wild-Card berth and go on the road. We all know what happened later-Super Bowl XL.

The rivalry between these two teams has become a grudge match with tough defense and smash mouth running.

We can expect Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to try to spread out the Steeler defense using his vertical passing game to gouge out the middle of the field, utilizing Ray Rice and the running game to set up short plays for a healthy tight end Todd Heap.

And to add to the drama,  the Ravens latest addition, receiver T J Houshmanzadeh, will show up with a chip on his shoulder in revenge of what could have been in 2005, when he was a Cincinnati Bengal.

He is still bitter over the hit by Kimo Von Olehoffen on Carson Palmer and destroying their chance to advance in the playoffs.

The Steelers are No.1 against the run, so we can expect the Ravens to still use Rice’s rushing abilities to set up the pass, especially the screens they like to run.

 Although the Steelers loss the first meeting on October 3, the defense managed to hold Rice to 20 yards rushing yards and no touchdowns to Mendenhall’s 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Running the ball will be tough on both sides. The Steelers have allowed 64 yards rushing per game (3 yards per carry) to the Ravens 101.7 yards per game (4.2 yards per carry).

December 2009, Rice gouged the Steeler defense for 141 yards rushing.

Roethlisberger reportedly injured his foot in the Buffalo game last Sunday and has been fitted with a boot. He has reported that a special shoe is being constructed to help immobilize his foot, so he can play Sunday night.

Roethlisberger has always demonstrated minimal pocket presence, along with his lack of ability to read blitzes; he works best when outside the pocket.

In addition, the last two games he used his feet to extend plays. In fact a couple of weeks ago, Roethlisberger were 5 yards shy of being the leading rusher against the Oakland Raiders.

The question will be with a hurt foot could Roethlisberger be able to escape out of the pocket?

Roethlisberger was sacked five times in the Buffalo game. You know linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis will try to take advantage of the situation.

It is interesting to note that Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception in the last two games and he has not thrown two in one game all season. Thus far, he has thrown four interceptions in the last seven games.

There has been issues all season reagrding the piece-meal offensive line that has of late been charged with multiple penalties, especially holding calls and false starts.

Linesmen Jonathan Scott and Chris Kemoeatu had terrible games again the Buffalo Bills last week. To make matter worse, the receivers and running backs have been suffering with fumblitis. The offense must take better care to control the ball.

Red zone opportunities are still as issue with this team. It is not enough to get three when six will do. Last week, even our best receiver, Mike Wallace was dropping balls.

The Steelers are under 50 percent in red zone efficiency and that is not good.

The defense has not effectively put much pressure on quarterbacks this season, which has allowed some teams back into games such as Miami, Cincinnati and Buffalo and others to win games outright like New England and New Orleans.

The lack of a consistent pass rush may possibly be due to the absence of both defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.

Keisel is expected to play Sunday, according to head coach Tomlin, and Smith is one week closer to playing this season.

Also, it has been noted that linebacker Lawrence Timmons has not been the disruptive force we saw earlier this season. Although he suffered a hip-pointer in the Buffalo game, according to Tomlin, he is expected to play against the Ravens.

Instead, we saw the resurgence of our favorite disruptor; Troy Polamalu made a key interception in the red zone from Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Steelers are five and one on the road this season and heading to Balimore to prepare for one of the biggest game of the season.

There are several other big games this weekend, Jets -New England, Atlanta -Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville-Tennessee. All with playoff and division titles on the line.


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