Time: 8:20 PM
Site: Heinz Field
Last Meeting: 11/06/11, L 20-23
Baltimore Ravens on Aerys: The Purple Nest
Is there any better rivalry in the NFL than the Steelers-Ravens?
If you were going to answer with anything but “no”, I’m going to have to stop you right there. Sure, other rivalries may have more history or more big name players with flashier stats. But a Steelers-Ravens games always tends to have a certain something to it. That “something” usually is bloodshed and a deep-seated hatred of the other team.
Most Pittsburgh/Baltimore match-ups have AFC North implications, and this game is no different. After a weak start to the season, the Steelers have looked up to the Ravens in the standings all season. The Steelers are riding on a four-game win streak heading into this first game against the Ravens and look to draw even in the standings. Pittsburgh will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is out with a shoulder/rib injury.
This is nothing new for the Steelers, who have been forced to face the Ravens without Big Ben in the past. Most of those games have been close, but with the Steelers unable to pull out a win. Byron Leftwich will get his first start against the Ravens since his days in Jacksonville, lo those many years ago.
Keys to the Game: Offense
Rashard Mendenhall should be back for the Steelers, and just in the nick of time too. While Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley stated that he will change his game plan to fit Leftwich’s strengths , it will certainly help to have the starting running back in the backfield. A strong showing by Mendenhall and company makes things easier for Leftwich.
Of course that’s easier said than done against the Ravens.
Haley may have a few deep passes to Mike Wallace up his sleeve. I’m still marveling at the fact that Leftwich overthrew Wallace on Monday night. With a week-ish of practice under their belts, Wallace and Leftwich may be able to work on their timing so Leftwich can hit Wallace in stride.
Keys to the Game: Defense
The Steelers will be without Troy Polamalu yet again. Ryan Clark and Will Allen have done an admirable job in the secondary in Polamalu’s absence. Of course, those were against other teams. This is the Ravens. Polamalu has been the difference-maker in the past and if the Steelers are going to pull out a win, somebody needs to step up and make the big plays and cause the turnovers.
Lawrence Timmons has been making a name for himself the past couple of weeks. He had the huge interception in overtime against Kansas City last week to set up the game-winning Shaun Suisham field goal. In the past Timmons has been overshadowed by the big names on the Steelers’ defense, but with injuries to Polamalu, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley, Timmons has stepped in the spotlight.
If the Steelers have any hopes of beating the Ravens, they will need many other players to step up into the spotlight in addition to Timmons.