Steelers-Ravens: Predictions Roundtable

Luke JonesCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2008

Members of the Bleacher Report Baltimore Ravens Community break down Sunday's AFC North showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Luke Jones

Two gladiators will battle for AFC North supremacy in one of the NFL's best rivalries on Sunday afternoon. 

In the modern day of professional sports, rivalries are often overhyped when taking the lucrative salaries and player movement into consideration.  Players simply don't buy into many of these rivalries.

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh does not fit this mold.

For much of the past decade, these teams have despised each other with a variety of characters getting involved in the battle, both on and off the field, such as Shannon Sharpe, Lee Flowers, Joey Porter, and Ray Lewis. 

These two teams dislike each other, because they are so similar.  Both rely on a strong defense and an opportunistic offense that won't make mistakes. 

With a win, the Ravens would tie Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead with two games remaining.  A Pittsburgh win would clinch the AFC North title for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh will be going for their first season sweep since 2002.  The Steelers' top-ranked defense will try to shut down Le'Ron McClain and the Ravens' strong running game.

If they're able to do this, quarterback Joe Flacco will have a difficult time holding up under the pressure of the Pittsburgh defense.

On the flip side, the Ravens' second-ranked defense will try to exploit Pittsburgh's shaky offensive line.

If they can rattle quarterback Ben Roethlisberger early, he is prone to making mistakes.  Pittsburgh will have difficulty running the ball with any consistency.

Both offenses will have difficulty moving the ball and will look to make the big play that can be the difference in the game.  The game will be decided by turnovers and field position. 

The Steelers have not won in Baltimore since 2002.  The drought will continue as a defensive score will be the difference for the Ravens.

The prediction:  Ravens 17-13

Chad Lamasa

This may be the closest thing to a college-type rivalry in the NFL. These two teams despise each other; this carries back to when the Ravens were the Browns.

This game will be hard-fought, as they all are. When was the last time there was a blowout in this series?

The Steelers come to town riding a five-game losing streak at M&T Bank Stadium. I don't see them breaking that streak this weekend.

I heard on one of the Sports Talk radio shows that Ben Roethlisberger said Baltimore is where he likes playing least, because of the crowd and how the defense thrives on it. He also said the Ravens are a "completely different team at home."

The Steelers, like the Redskins, have a porous offensive line, not that it matters in this rivalry. The Ravens love to get to Ben, especially Bart Scott, who pasted Ben last season. I can see the Ravens putting Ben on his back five or six times again.

Even if we don't sack Ben, he is prone to try to force things when he's hurried and that can lead to mistakes, and mistakes mean turnovers against our defense.

Willie Parker is back and he poses a threat, but one that we can shut down.

I really think we had the game won in Pittsburgh, if not for the penalties. Joe Flacco took us to overtime against one of the premier AFC teams in just his third game.

Flacco has improved leaps and bounds since that game, as has the team as a whole.

The prediction: Ravens 24-21

Sean O'Brien

This is it, the game that will ultimately decide the fate of the AFC North. With a win against the Ravens earlier in the year, the Steelers have a one-game lead that they will be looking to protect. The Ravens have won seven of the last eight, including victories over the Eagles and the Redskins.

If you look at these two teams and the progressions they have made since they last met, the Ravens have improved more. Joe Flacco is twice the quarterback he was and the running game has prospered because of it.

Against the Redskins, the Raven defense looked absolutely savage but at the same time, that Steelers defense won the Dallas game.

I believe Flacco will be much more confident to throw down field than he was in their September meeting and that will help keep the offense balanced.

If the Raven defense can force a turnover and gain an early lead, short passes and power running by either Ray Rice or Le'Ron McClain will limit the chance of offensive turnovers.

The prediction: Ravens, 20-14

The Baltimore Ravens Community would like to hear your predictions for Sunday's game.  Will the Ravens beat the Steelers and force a tie for the division lead?  Or, will Pittsburgh clinch the AFC North title?  Leave your comments below.


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