It's Baltimore Ravens week in Steeler Nation, as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on theirbiggest rival in Week 1. I'm sure you have gotten plenty of opinions and analysis this week so I won't write 50 paragraphs about the game. Just some quick thoughts instead.
Joe Flacco is 0-6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger starts opposite him.
In those six losses, Flacco has just five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Now Roethlisberger and Flacco don't actually play against each other, but it can't be coincidence. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't panic or get flustered when things go wrong. He hasn't always played great against Baltimore, but unlike Flacco, Big Ben has done a tremendous job of making big plays at big times against Baltimore. Flacco has done the opposite against Pittsburgh.
Look at last year's playoff game as an example.
Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, posting a 93.9 passer rating during his personal seven-game winning streak against the Ravens, twice helping Pittsburgh knock them out of the playoffs since 2008.
Roethlisberger owns the Ravens. If I were asked who the Ravens' daddy is, I'd simply answer "Ben Roethlisberger." And again it's more than stats will ever show you. Ravens vs. Steelers is a nasty, hard-hitting rivalry. Roethlisberger simply finds ways to make big plays at crucial moments. He also shows the Ravens that he's not a little sissy.
Last year in Baltimore, Roethlisberger led a victory over the Ravens with a broken nose and a broken foot. I'd like to see Joe Flacco do that. Hell, I'd like to see Joe Flacco beat the Steelers when Ben plays. Not gonna happen.
If the Ravens are smart, they will utilize Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice every which way they possibly can. Rice is the Raven's best player on offense.
Look for the Ravens to use Rice in the passing game. Rice is a complete back, good at both picking up the blitz and catching balls out of the backfield. If the Ravens can get Rice in a good matchup he could hurt them big time. Containing Rice is key.
As for Boldin, I would have Ike Taylor cover him as much as possible. Bryant McFadden and William Gay are the weak links of the secondary and the entire defense. If the Ravens can get Boldin away from Taylor, he could hurt the Steelers.
Both teams should be worried about their offensive lines against the pass rush.
Both teams should be worried about their left tackles this week. The Ravens are starting Bryant McKinnie, formally of the Minnesota Vikings at left tackle. McKinnie has had weight troubles and inconsistencies throughout his career.
This Sunday he will have to TRY and block James Harrison. That could spell a disaster for the Ravens and a huge edge for the Steelers. The Ravens still have to worry about LaMarr Woodley on the other side.
The Steelers are starting rookie Marcus Gilbert at left tackle. Gilbert has looked decent in the preseason but will have to go up against Terrell Suggs. Suggs has been a force for the Ravens throughout his career including against the Steelers. Suggs should be licking his chops at this matchup—his extremely big lips.
Suggs looks like the on-steroids version of Bubba from "Forrest Gump."
The Steelers also need to be worried about Haloti Ngata, who is just a beast of a man. Ngata has had his share of big plays and impact in these games and I expect him to be again this Sunday. It's a big matchup for Maurkice Pouncey. This is the reason the Steelers drafted you, Maurkice, to deal with great nose tackles.
As great as Pouncey is, he got beat by Ngata on the play in which Ngata broke Roethlisberger's nose.
Ed Reed vs Troy Polamalu
The argument will go on forever. Who's better, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu?
The stats go to Ed Reed. Reed has played in 20 more games than Polamalu, but has twice as many interceptions and total turnovers. Reed is a great player and a great athlete.
There's no doubting that, but big players play in big games. Reed plays safety like he's playing center field. Polamalu lines up somewhere different on almost every play. The Steelers blitz him, play him in the box, have him cover one on one, and they'll also play him like the Ravens play Reed.
Polamalu can do it all and he can certainly do more than Reed. Furthermore, when's the last time Reed made a big play against the Steelers? Polamalu has single-handedly put a damper on the Ravens parade in key moments over the past few years.
He had a huge pick-six in the AFC Championship Game.
Then in Baltimore last year, Polamalu made a huge play, stripping Flacco on 2nd and 5 in the fourth quarter, giving the Steelers the ball. The Steelers went on to win the game.
Call me biased, but I haven't seen Reed make plays like these against Pittsburgh. If anything, Roethlisberger has actually victimized Reed over the years. Then again, so has Hines Ward. Both Polamalu and Reed are great players and future Hall-of-Famers, but give me Polamalu over Reed any day.
Of course I'm going with the Steelers, but not because of my bias. Until Flacco outplays Roethlisberger, there's no way the Ravens can win. The Ravens are bullies but they can't bully the Steelers. The Ravens hit them and the Steelers hit them right back. Bullies don't like that.
The game will be close of course, it always is between these two. The last nine games between them have been decided by a touchdown or less. I expect this game to be the same. The Ravens will make some plays, but like always, Roethlisberger will find a way to win the game. He almost always does.
Steelers 20-Ravens 16
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