Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers Week 7: 5 Key Matchups
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers Key Matchups
For the better part of the past decade, every Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens' game was a precursor to who would win the AFC North. This year, it's a battle to determine which team can keep their playoff hopes alive, with each proud franchise desperate for a win in order to keep up with the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals. While the names, faces and records have changed, fans can be rest easy in the knowledge that this will the hard-hitting dog fight they look forward to every season.
With a 1-4 record, the Steelers are clearly the most desperate of the rivals, and a loss would pull the plug on a season that is already on life support. On the flip side, a win over their rivals could spark a vital mid-season run, while simultaneously evening their record with the Ravens in the loss column.
Proud veterans like Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs will look to add another chapter in Ravens-Steelers lore, while youngsters Le'Veon Bell and Matt Elam are just trying to get in the book.
The wins might be lacking, and the losses a little high, but it's still Ravens-Steelers week. Let's get ready.
Alexander Diegel is a columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsaDiegel, "like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on google
5. OLB LaMarr Woodley vs RT Michael Oher
With four sacks in five games, LaMarr Woodley has been one of the few consistent playmakers for the Steelers this season. He has a penchant for coming up with big plays against the Ravens, and the Steelers will need more of the same if they are to pull off the upset and keep their season alive. Promising rookie Jarvis Jones could miss the game with a concussion, so Woodely might be the Steelers' only chance of putting much-needed pressure on Flacco.
On the other side of the ball, Michael Oher, has been the only offensive lineman the Ravens have been able to count on. The winner of this battle, especially come late in the fourth quarter, could very well determine the winner of this game.
4. WR Antonio Brown vs CB Lardarius Webb
The Steelers paid Antonio Brown, and let Mike Wallace walk. So far, Brown is returning the team's investment, as Pro Football Focus recently assessed the Steelers' wideout as the best in the game. Brown has nearly twice the catches of No. 2 man Emmanuel Sanders, and has been a big-time threat for the league's seventh-ranked passing attack.
Webb is the man who will have to keep him in check. He did a so-so job slowing Jordy Nelson last week, as he held him to just four catches, but gave up some big gainers in the worst moments that helped the Packers secure the win.
3. OLB Terrell Suggs vs LT Kelvin Beachum
Terrell Suggs was held without a sack for the first time last week, but still made his presence felt. Now the veteran leader of the re-tooled Ravens' defense, Suggs is sure to lead by example with a big play or two to fire up the D.
Mike Tomlin's "next man up" moniker will be tested this week, as utility man Beachum will make his second start at left tackle. First up was the disappointing Mike Adams, and then Levi Brown (out for the season with a torn triceps) was here and gone before he played a single snap. Beachum will have his work cut out for him keeping Suggs off of Roethlisberger on Sunday.
2. DT Haloti Ngata vs Steelers' Interior Line
The Steelers' ineffectiveness on offense directly coincides with their inability to run the football. There has been slight improvement with the addition of rookie Le'Veon Bell, but the team is still waiting for a breakout game from the Michigan State product.
Bell would secure his status as a Steelers' favorite with a big game Sunday, but big Haloti Ngata and his mates will be there to ensure the Pittsburgh line doesn't get the running game rolling, at least not this week.
1. Ray Rice vs Steelers' Rush Defense
There was a time when the Steelers and Ravens were a lock to appear on the NFL's top-10 list of rushing offenses, year in and year out. To quote the great Bob Dylan, "The times, they are a-changing."
The aforementioned Steelers' ground game ranks 31st in the league, while the Ravens are not much better, with just under 73 yards per game, good for the league's 27th-ranked attack. Just as the Ravens will work to ensure the Steelers don't get things turned around, the proud Pittsburgh D will make sure Ray Rice does not get going. Not this week, not against this defense.