Hopefully the 2011 NFL season is quickly approaching us, and like any other Pittsburgh Steelers season, the fans are getting restless, wanting to see their team sowing the seeds of hard work in practice, to reap them during the regular season, and the post-season.
In an effort to get everyone thinking positively, because I can’t stand the negativity that the lockout has brought upon us as fans and writers, I want to get into the schedule and take a few early shot in the dark predictions that you may very well not agree with, which is fine, we can’t always be the one same because if we were, you’d never be here and I’d be as obsolete as a BetaMax.
Week One |9.11.11| Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Everyone join me in one collective WOW. The Steelers will open on the road for the first time in four years against their fiercest rival of current times. Add to that ridiculous amount of emotion the date of the game – 9/11/11, and you’ve got before you a game that could easily reach epic proportions in term of emotional outbursts.
The Steelers and Ravens play each other hard, regardless of record, regardless of where the game is played, and regardless of whether or not the starters are in the game, you’re in for some of the hardest hits the NFL will allow and even some that they won’t.
With the Ravens adding both a corner back and a receiver that will very likely be able to make immediate impacts on their respective sides of the ball, coupled with the Steelers secondary in bad shape as of this moment expect Joe Flacco to try and drive the ball down the field, with multiple receiving options, including an extremely talented pass catcher out of the backfield in Ray Rice.
This is a game that will have serious implications on the future of both teams’ seasons, a key injury sustained to either team may set them back before they even got a chance to begin. Think about it, how effective is a Pittsburgh team without Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, etc? To flip it, where would the Ravens be without Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, and Joe Flacco?
The best thing about the Steelers and Ravens is that they match up very well on paper, and as match ups are key in the NFL, let’s take a look at some important ones.
Ben Roethlisberger has a trump card for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, having never lost a game against his rival. Flacco doesn’t talk about, Roethlisberger doesn’t talk about it, but it’s there, and you better believe that they both know the record. Flacco was the focal point during the two teams’ second meeting last season, coughing up the ball on a sack that proved to be a momentum changing play that very well could have given the Steelers the edge in the AFC North on their trip to Super Bowl XLV.
Ray Lewis is nearing the end of his storied and decorated career in the NFL, and it’s going to be a dark day for the entire NFL when he does retire, we will be seeing one of the greats retire, and without a doubt I will be able to see him in my hometown of Canton, Ohio during his Hall Of Fame induction. He’s going to do everything he can to orchestrate the Baltimore defense, as he does so well, into confusing the Steelers revolving door of an offensive line, and depending on the personnel along that line, picking on the youngest and most inexperienced players in an effort to gain an advantage. That means if second round pick Marcus Gilbert is in the game, he can expect to feel some added pressure.
For generations the Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers have remained the most consistent in the league, each one doing their part to add to the positions storied history, and much like Ray Lewis earlier, they intend on finding a weak link and exploiting it until it crumbles in Berlin Wall like fashion. The one thing this particular group isn’t very renowned for is coverage. Sure, they’re alright at it, but face it – these guys are known for getting after the quarterback, the defense is predicated on doing just that. But, the Ravens aren’t a team that’s not equipped to handle that, and the deadliest threat to the Steelers fast rushing linebackers may be a 5’9, 195 pound scat back named Ray Rice, who is exceptionally gifted for his size, with his ability to catch out the backfield and break tackles, he gives the Ravens some serious YAC potential.
This being a rivalry game, don’t expect 2010 Defensive Player Of The Year Troy Polamalu to remain quiet. He’s well known for making plays when he’s absolutely needed, and there is a good chance that he will called upon to make a play this time around. He’s one of the key injuries that we were talking about earlier, he’s seen his share of the stationary bike over the past few years, and the defense plays completely differently with him on the sideline.
Overall these two teams will come out for a slug fest and that’s exactly what they’ll get, Ray Lewis is looking to get back to the game’s biggest stage one more time before he quits, while Ben Roethlisberger and company are trying to redeem a lousy outing in Super Bowl XLV.
Way Too Early Prediction: Steelers 21 Ravens 17