The Baltimore Ravens will be taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. This is an important game for a Ravens team trying to squeeze their way into the playoffs.
Last time the two teams met the Steelers beat the Ravens 26-9. But this was without Ravens defensive linemen Brandon Williams and the offense was struggling.
The Ravens have been playing well of late, winning three in a row including a 44-20 victory over the Lions where the offense really played well.
That being said how will the Ravens on a hot streak fair against the Steelers who beat the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals by only three points?
JuJu-Smith-Schuster has been a bright light for the Steelers. With Schuster being out who will the Steelers target?
The majority will wind up in the hands of Martavis Bryant. The two are completely different receivers stylistically. Bryant is a deep threat, Smith-Schuster a possessive guy. However, in the game Smith-Schuster missed due to injury against Green Bay, Bryant caught his second touchdown of the year and first since Week Two. He will be on the field in all two-receiver sets, and the Steelers will just adjust their play calling to suit him more. Eli Rogers will also be a beneficiary in the passing game to a smaller degree.
Last week the Steeler offense combined for an impressive 382 yards. Now that the Steelers are facing a tougher defense in the Ravens will these numbers continue or will the Steelers offense fizzle down?
Just the nature of typical Steelers-Ravens games makes me assume the stats will not be the same in this game. The Ravens have historically given Roethlisberger lesser numbers than his career standards. However, two injury situations could help Bell and Brown. For Brown, Jimmy Smith is usually his kryptonite, but will not play. This could open him up. For Bell, he is getting a stud blocking tight end in Vance McDonald back, and with McDonald in the lineup, the Steelers ran all over Baltimore in Week 4.
Last time the Ravens and Steelers met Ryan Shazier dominated as he racked up 10 tackles and one interception. With Shazier out for this Sunday’s matchup what player or group of players do you think will step up and try to fill his role?
No one can fill the Shazier role. He is a freelancer who makes plays by instinct and reaction. However, to mask his hole it will have to be the defensive line and pass rush. They have to get the push-up front to keep Vince Williams free to make tackles, and they will have to get after the passer because the middle of the field is going to be much more open moving forward.
When the Steelers clashed with the Ravens, Alex Collins was still sort of fresh and ran for 82 yards on 9 carries. Will Collins numbers improve or will the Steelers defense know him better and shut him down?
Collins looks really good. That being said, the defensive line is the best unit on the Steelers and will have the chip of Shazier on their shoulder. It should be a plus matchup against the Ravens offensive line so the Steelers could have an advantage here.
If the Ravens pull off the upset in Heinz Field, should Steelers fans feel any sense of nervousness about possibly not winning the division or even getting eliminated in the playoffs by the Ravens?
No. To be honest, it can be argued this game means little for Pittsburgh. Next game means everything. They play the New England Patriots next week. Even if they lose this game, a win next week against the Patriots would put them in control of their own destiny as far as home field in the playoffs goes. If they lose to New England, they finish their season against Houston and Cleveland, so it feels like the worst case scenario for Pittsburgh is a 12-4 record. The Ravens are the number one rival to the Steelers. However, sandwiched in between a game as physical as last week against the Bengals and a game as important to the Steelers Super Bowl hopes as next week will make it interesting to see the type of vibe the Steelers bring on Sunday night.