Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9: Players to Watch in Matchup with Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers are on a four-game win streak and currently have the best record in the AFC, while the Ravens looked dominant to start the season, only to falter the last two weeks.
The Steelers come in with some rhythm, the Ravens offense just exploded and here are 10 players to watch in this division-deciding matchup.
The last time these two teams played, Ray Rice gashed the Steelers for 107 rushing yards, a touchdown, 42 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.
The Ravens as a team ran on the Steelers at 5.5 yards a rush and the Steelers cannot allow Rice to do that to them again.
The Steelers defense has been better as of late at stopping the run, and that would put the pressure on Joe Flacco to win the game himself.
People are talking about the Cardinals game being a turning point for Joe Flacco, however, weren’t people saying that in Week 1 and again last season when he beat us the first time without Ben?
In the last four games, Flacco has only one touchdown, four interceptions and five fumbles, with three of them being recovered by the opposing team.
In the first matchup, the entire Ravens team, including Flacco, was fueled because of all the trash the Steelers talked in the offseason. Even with the Steelers being without James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, I do not see Flacco having that type of day this time around.
Terrell Suggs has always killed the Steelers, and he continued that by registering three sacks in Week 1 this season.
Even though Suggs has had a sack in consecutive weeks now, that only gives him six for the season with half coming in that one game.
The Steelers need to do a much better job at blocking him, because if Ben Roethlisberger has to carry Suggs on his back for the entire game, then the offense will struggle.
Along with the rest of the Ravens team, Haloti Ngata had a great game against the Steelers in Week 1 and helped to hold the run game to only 66 total yards.
I can still see Ngata completely destroying Rashard Mendenhall and forcing a fumble in my nightmares, and the offensive line should be ashamed for allowing him to come free like that.
The Steelers may not run for 100 yards in this game, however, they need to move Ngata around enough to at least stay balanced against this defense.
Even though the offensive line takes a lot of the blame in the blowout against the Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger really struggled—mostly due to the fact that he was wearing two Ravens as a coat on every play.
However, he still cannot turn the ball over five times.
Ben is on fire right now and is coming off a week where he torched the New England Patriots, and I think he will have a good day against that Baltimore defense.
Heath Miller began the season as basically an extra offensive lineman because of how bad the blocking was to start 2011.
It is great to see him actually being involved in the offense again, because he provides the Steelers with a matchup problem for the defense.
The Ravens may go all out to stop the Steelers receivers in this game, which could leave Heath wide open in the middle of the field and the red zone.
Mike Wallace has become one of the most exciting and dangerous players in the NFL, and actually had a 100-yard game against the Ravens the first time around.
The Patriots focused on Wallace and stopped his streak of games with a 40-plus-yard reception which opened up the field for Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller.
If the Ravens even think about another receiver on the Steelers, Mike Wallace could be gone for a touchdown at any time.
The last time these teams played, Polamalu's defense looked terrible and Ed Reed had two interceptions on the other side for the Ravens.
Troy is due to have one of those games where he just cannot be stopped and he needs to be all over Joe Flacco the whole game.
I could see Troy getting his first two interceptions in this game, or at least one, and he will be flying around to compensate for the loss of both starting outside linebackers.
Steelers’ Offensive Line
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a total of four times in Week 1, and had Ravens in his face almost every single play.
The offensive line was terrible before they signed Max Starks, and they better put up a better effort this time around.
The line was directly responsible for most of the turnovers in that game, and if they can just do their job and block, the Steelers should win this game.
The Steelers are really hurting at the linebacker position, and will most likely be without James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley for this game.
That means Stevenson Sylvester will be starting on the inside, with Larry Foote and either Jason Worilds, if healthy, or rookie Chris Carter will be on the outside.
Stevenson Sylvester did a decent job starting for the first time last week against the Patriots, and Chris Carter looked good as a pass-rusher as well, when Woodley went out with injury.
It will be interesting to see how these young guys do against the Ravens' run game, and if someone can put some pressure on Joe Flacco.