Before the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens continue their long-tenured rivalry between each other on Sunday, Ebony Bird had the opportunity to ask Dominic DiTolla, editor of Nice Pick Cowher, a few questions.
1. Throughout the Steelers 1-4 start, has there been any doubt with Ben Roethlisberger? Have there been any conversations, among Steelers fans, about finding another quarterback in the draft?
Not to me or many other members of “Steeler Nation.” The team’s struggles have not all been because of their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback,and how the defense escaped as much blame as they did for their pathetic play during the 0-4 start was a joke.
I will say that Ben’s ability to extend plays has masked truly how awful their offensive line is. If you watch the second half of the loss to Minnesota in which Ben almost brought the team to win the game, then you’ll know why. The guy is simply a warrior out on the field.
As far as backups are concerned, the franchise brought in Landry Jones in April to develop for a few years behind Roethlisberger. I think they’ll at least try to stick with the former fourth round pick for another season before they decide on whether or not he is worthy to groom long-term.
2. The Steelers offensive line has been hit right and left with injuries, but are there any bright spots to their offensive line? Anybody Ravens fans should keep tabs on?
Kelvin Beachum has been a bright spot simply due to his versatility. He has played five positions already this year (left tackle, left guard, center, right tackle, and tight end) and will start at left tackle. His frame and lack of strength make him a poor fit at where he is starting now (left tackle), but Mike Adams was a complete and total joke there during the first four games so the coaching staff had no choice but to bench him.
3. How has the Steelers offense adjusted without Mike Wallace?
The offense has actually adjusted well without that butterfingered malcontent actually. Antonio Brown has really stepped up his game recently and is on pace to break the single-season franchise records for receptions and receiving yards. The return of Heath Miller has also been enormous, and the team has received some solid production out of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.
While the Steelers are not as much of a vertical passing team with Todd Haley in town and Wallace gone, their offensive line is not good enough to protect Roethlisberger on a consistent basis when it comes to giving deep passing plays time to develop.
4. Out of the Steelers recent draft class, who has made the biggest contribution to the team, thus far?
I think that it has been the team’s sixth round pick, Vince Williams. After Larry Foote went down on opening weekend, Williams split time with Kion Wilson at the “buck” spot next to Lawrence Timmons at the strongside inside linebacker position. Williams won the job outright last week and has actually progressed after some early season struggles.
Besides Williams, both outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and running back Le’Veon Bell seem primed to improve as the season progresses as well. Of course, both must stay healthy and on the field as opposed to on the sidelines.
5. What’s your prediction for this game, as well as a bold prediction?
Beachum and Marcus Gilbert (Pittsburgh’s right tackle) will not be able to keep Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in check. That mismatch is what will tip the scales in Baltimore’s favor. “Big Ben” will be harassed far too often, and Pittsburgh’s running game is nothing short of a joke. Unless the defense can find ways to pressure Joe Flacco and force mistakes, it will be a long afternoon. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s run defense is ranked 22nd in average rushing yards per game allowed so Ray Rice should be primed for a break-out day on the ground.
The Steelers just seem to be a bit over-confident after their sloppy victory against a very inexperienced and flawed Jets team last weekend. Baltimore would love nothing more than to send Pittsburgh to 1-5 and essentially end their postseason dreams. With that in mind, my bold prediction is that the Ravens will win this rivalry game rather handily at a stadium where they have won three consecutive regular season games: