5 Reasons the Baltimore Ravens Will Defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1
The Steelers have bested the Ravens time and time again in their recent match-ups. Since 2001, the Steelers are 14-9 against the Ravens and 6-2 in the last eight of their battles.
Could this be the year that the Ravens finally defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and win the AFC North? It all begins with Week 1. This first game may not make or break the Ravens' season, but it will certainly give them an advantage if they win or start them off on a sour note if they lose.
This game will set the tone for the Ravens' season. If the Ravens can defeat the Steelers in Week 1, it will be the boost they need to start off the season with a bang.
Here are five reasons that this is the year that the Ravens will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. A Revamped Receiving Corps
Lee Evans (83) and Anquan Boldin (81)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Out with the old and in with the new. The Ravens released veterans Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, two major factors in the Ravens' passing attack in recent years.
To replace Mason, the Ravens traded a 2012 fourth round draft pick to the Buffalo Bills in return for veteran speedster Lee Evans.
Evans brings a deep threat presence to complement Anquan Boldin's tough over-the-middle style.
Add in 2011 second round pick Torrey Smith, 2011 fourth round pick Tandon Doss and 2010 fifth round pick David Reed, and the Ravens have completely changed their receiving corps from a group of wily, old veterans to a solid mix of youth and veterans.
This group of receivers could be just what the Ravens need to defeat the Steelers, whose group of cornerbacks received little attention or improvement in the Steelers offseason.
Ike Taylor resigned with the Steelers, and Bryant McFadden returns to start across from Taylor. But they may not be enough to cover the speedy Evans and the gritty Boldin.
If the Ravens spread out the Steelers using their two veteran receivers as well as their rookies, the Steelers thin group of defensive backs may not be able to cover all the Ravens talented receivers.
The Ravens passing attack may be the answer to outwitting the Steelers defense.
2. An Improved Pass Rush
The Ravens pass rush struggled in 2010, registering a franchise low 27 sacks. The Ravens seemingly did little to bolster their pass rush this offseason, but a few subtle happenings may have made all the difference.
Veteran Terrell Suggs is undoubtedly the best pass rusher the Ravens have. But in the preseason, several young pass rushers stepped up.
Third year outside linebacker Paul Kruger, second year defensive end Arthur Jones and rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee all showed up big in the preseason.
Kruger registered two sacks, Jones applied consistent pressure on the opposing quarterbacks and McPhee had a sack and nearly had three forced fumbles, all of which were challenged and overturned by the replay officials.
Second year defensive end Sergio Kindle returned from a head injury he suffered when he fell down the stairs prior to the start of his rookie season. He did a solid job in the preseason, and the Ravens have high hopes for him.
With these new factors in the Ravens pass rush, along with Suggs and the veterans, the Ravens pass rush will almost certainly be better in 2011.
An improved pass rush will be critical in taking down Ben Roethlisberger.
3. A Stronger Offensive Line
The Ravens' offensive line struggled in 2010 with the loss of offensive tackle Jared Gaither. The loss of Gaither required a shuffle in the starting lineup, and the line struggled with pass protection and run blocking.
This season, Gaither is gone. In his place is former Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. With the addition of McKinnie, Michael Oher will move from the left tackle spot back to the right tackle spot, where he played his rookie season.
The Ravens' offensive line will look the same as it did in 2009, the year Ray Rice had his breakout season with McKinnie at left tackle instead of Gaither.
The Ravens also added excellent depth at center with the signing of former Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode. Gurode provides a solid backup in case Ravens' center Matt Birk should suffer an injury.
The offensive line looks promising. The only concern is the small amount of time the line has had to practice together. Nonetheless, the line is greatly improved from 2010.
With James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and company coming to town, a solid offensive line will be essential to the Ravens' offensive success.
4. A Tougher Rushing Attack
Not only will the stronger offensive line aid in the Ravens' 2011 rushing attack, but so will the addition of fullback Vonta Leach.
Leach, the former Houston Texans fullback, is considered by most to be the best blocking fullback in the NFL. He paved the way for Arian Foster as Foster led the NFL in rushing yards in 2010.
Leach brings a physical style to the Ravens. And unlike former Ravens and current Kansas City Chiefs fullback Le'Ron McClain, all he wants to do is block.
In three games against the Steelers last season, the Ravens rushed for just 148 yards, averaging only 2.3 yards per carry. Leach will be a big aid in the rushing attack, paving the way for Ray Rice.
The Steelers have always been strong against the run, but if the Ravens can have success running the ball, they will be able to wear down the Steelers defense quickly.
5. A More Experience Joe Flacco
Larry French/Getty Images
The key to the Ravens' success is Joe Flacco. Flacco received much criticism from the media in the offseason, and it fueled the competitive fires within him.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has said the Ravens will give Joe Flacco more control of the offense in 2011.
In many ways, this will be a make or break year for Flacco. Flacco must prove that he can lead the Ravens offense and put points on the board.
If Flacco can withstand the Steelers aggressive pass rush, and avoid making costly mistakes, the Ravens have an excellent chance of winning the game.
Can the Ravens Do It?
Nick Laham/Getty Images
With the bitter taste of January's playoffs loss to the Steelers on their tongues, the Ravens must take the field and deny the Steelers the victory.
The Ravens and Steelers games never fail to come down to the wire. Week 1 promises yet another exciting games between the NFL's greatest rivals.
Predicted Score: Ravens 27-24