Steelers Vs. Ravens: Battle for the AFC North

Sean O'BrienCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2008

The AFC North is currently conquered by two teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, who are set to meet week 4 in Pittsbrugh.

Pittsburgh is currently 2-1, with victories over Houston and Cleveland and a loss to the Eagles.

The Ravens are currently undefeated at 2-0, with a victory over the Bengals, followed by a surprise bye week and topping it off with an impressive slaughter of the Browns.  With their undefeated status, they are technically the kings of the North.

The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles revealed the chink in the Steelers offense, their O line.  "Big" Ben Roethlisberger was mercilessly sacked 9 times by an intimidating Eagles defense.  The key to the Steelers gaining another notch in their win column will be determined by the play of his offensive line.

Pittsburgh will be met by the league's number one defense, one that sacked Cleveland QB Derek Anderson 5 times and intercepted him 3 times.  Baltimore's D has once again awakened under the direction of new head coach John Harbaugh.  The defense has limited both Cincinnati and Cleveland to a mere 10 points a game.  They're averaging 7 sacks a game and are currently 1st in pass defense and 5th in rush defense.

Needless to say, if the Steelers don't make some quick adjustments you can expect Big Ben to once again be on his back most of the game.

Not to say that the Steelers themselves don't have a juggernaut defense.  They're currently ranked number 2 overall, just behind their opponents.  Pittsburgh has the second best rush defense and the 9th best pass defense.  They are averaging 10 sacks a game and have thus far picked off 6 interceptions.

It's no doubt that this will be a low-scoring defensive game.

On offense, Baltimore rookie QB Joe Flacco has shown to be a competent passer and, though he has made a few rookie throws, is overall solid.  Behind him, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain have been a two-headed monster when it comes to the running game.  The Steel Curtain, however, will prove to be their greatest challenge yet.

Baltimore's offense is ranked 19th overall, 2nd in rushing and 30th in passing.  They have a pretty obvious game plan.

Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh offense hasn't been as great as projected.  They are currently ranked 29th in the league.  They're ranked 18th in rushing and 29th in passing.  However, they dropped significantly after the Philadelphia game and I believe them to be ranked much higher.

As an offense, Pittsburgh is much more complete then Baltimore.  Roethlisberger is a beast at QB (when he's not face down in the turf).  Willie Parker is averaging 4.0 yards a carry and has consistently been a threat since his induction into the Steeler organization.  Nearly every Steeler receiver is averaging over 10 yards a catch, proving that they can effective move the ball when needed.

Here's how I break down the teams:

Passing advantage - Pittsburgh

Rushing advantage - Baltimore

Defensive advantage - Baltimore

Special Teams advantage - Baltimore

If the Ravens can't get pressure up front, it's Pittsburgh's game to win.  If they can force Big Ben to make bad decisions or throw some interceptions, Baltimore's defense will win it for them.

End Score: Steelers 14, Ravens 10