In a contest that can be described as "The Battle of the Bullies," the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, bitter AFC North rivals, collide this Saturday in pursuit of the AFC crown.
Such a bitter rivalry matching two teams known for being very physical, hard-hitting and with a thirst for inflicting pain on their opponents promises to be a hard-fought and intense battle.
The Ravens defense, ranked fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (94) and third in points allowed (17), have forced 14 turnovers in their last three games, five of which occurred during their 30-7 Wild Card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
In comparison, the Steelers defense is ranked first in both rushing yards per game (63) and in fewest points allowed per game (14.5). This game will truly be an exhibition of two defensive Goliaths.
These teams have faced each other twice this season, with Baltimore winning the first meeting, 17-14, and Pittsburgh winning the second meeting, 13-10. Two hard-fought battles, each decided by three points.
The Ravens defense must contain Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, which they have done effectively in both meetings this season. Mendenhall was held to 79 yards in the first meeting and 45 yards in the second.
It is vital that the Ravens put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, keeping him in the pocket and taking away his ability to extend plays with his feet. Roethlisberger, with the receivers he has at his disposal, can turn a failed play into a long gain if allowed to scramble outside the pocket.
The Steelers, in both meetings with the Ravens this season, were effective in shutting down Ravens running back Ray Rice, who ran for 20 yards in the first meeting and 32 yards in the second. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and his receivers will try to open up the running game by completing big pass plays, which they have proven capable of doing.
If the Steelers contain Joe Flacco and limit the production in the passing game, it will truly be a long day for the Ravens, yielding a victory for Pittsburgh.
This will be a rough, hard-hitting and punishing contest, sending one of these Goliaths deeper into the playoffs, battered and bruised.
(Posted on Cleveland Browns Report: A Browns News Source)