Ladies and gentlemen,
What a treat we have in store for you. Statistically, the toughest division in football. Arguably, these are the two best teams in the AFC. They are battling for first place, in not only their division, but the AFC.
And it all comes to a head, Sunday night. Can you feel the electricity already?
Coming into this game, there is no secret whose offense is playing better. Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career this season. The Steelers' offensive line has vastly improved over the course of the season and is allowing Ben more time to throw, although he hasn't needed it lately. Ben has been throwing quick passes to his receivers, as demonstrated in the Steelers' victory against New England when he out-Brady'd Tom Brady.
Pittsburgh's Offensive Strategy
Keep doing what you've been doing. While it is exciting to see Ben throw bombs to Mike Wallace every other play, that exposes Roethlisberger to two guys you may have heard of: Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata—let alone the other playmakers on the Ravens defense. Ben needs to utilize short passes and play action, which will hopefully open a few holes for Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman to run through.
Baltimore's Offensive Strategy
Give Ray Rice the ball. Give Ray Rice the ball often. The Steelers are playing without their star linebackers, and that could mean a big day for Rice. Talks have been suggesting Pittsburgh might switch to a 4-3 defense or play with 6 defenders in the secondary like they did mostly with New England. This could play right into the Ravens' hands with Ray Rice. If he has a big day, expect it to be devastating to the Steelers.
Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers
Both defenses have played great this season, but what's more surprising is Pittsburgh's No. 1-ranked pass defense. And to the naysayers who believe they haven't played any elite QBs, take a look at how aggressive they were against New England and how they shut down the offense led by Tom Brady. This defense is for real.
Baltimore's defense has been lights out the whole season. The Cardinals were generally held on offense, only scoring off of turnovers and special teams. Baltimore also had a great defensive display against the Jaguars.
Pittsburgh's Defensive Strategy
Stop Ray Rice. Stop him at all costs. Ike Taylor is playing great, he should have no problems against Anquan Boldin. The pass defense should hold its own against Joe Flacco. The player they need to be focused on the most is Rice. Not only stopping his runs, but also taking him out in the receiving aspect. If Rice is held in check, Pittsburgh's chances to win increase immensely.
Baltimore's Defensive Strategy
Get to Big Ben, plain and simple. Suggs and the rest of the Ravens front 7 always seem to have a field day with the Steelers' offensive line. If they can get immediate pressure and disrupt Ben's quick throws, they can create turnovers and recreate the Week 1 debacle.
Joe Flacco. In all honesty, he's been in a big slump the past few weeks. He laid a huge stinker in the Jacksonville game and was utterly terrible in the first half against the Cardinals. One good half against a Cardinals defense does not mean he's back. It's still the Cardinals defense that should have been destroyed from the opening snap.
Heath Miller. He had a huge game against the New England Patriots, racking up more than 70 yards in just the first quarter. He'll need to block some of the Ravens' pass rush, and if he can get open like he did against the Patriots, look for Ben to target him time after time.
This game is in Heinz Field, one of the toughest places to play as the visiting team. I think that will play a huge factor in this game.
Both defenses are stingy. Pittsburgh is playing hurt on that side of the ball. But quite frankly, both defenses are going to get stops so I look at the offensive potency for both sides. It's obvious Pittsburgh is more explosive.
I think the Pittsburgh offense is going to score more than the Ravens offense. Ben has too many weapons and is playing too well right now to get slowed down. The Steelers receivers are better than the Ravens defenders, and Ben is better than Flacco.
Not saying the Ravens can't win the game, but I don't see them getting 7 turnovers again. Look for a similar game plan in the New England game.
Baltimore Ravens - 17
Pittsburgh Steelers - 27