Nov 28, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Officials try to hold back Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) during a fight with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
As we prepare for Thursday night’s continuation of what is one of the greatest rivalries in the NFL, Ravens vs. Steelers, we wanted to gain some inside perspective on what to expect in the first game of the season between these two teams. To get the scoop, we reached out to Kim Myers, editor of Nice Pick Cowher, our sister site on the FanSided network.
We prepared five questions for Kim to help us shed some light on Thursday’s matchup from a fan’s perspective and to get an inside look at some factors that are sure to impact the game. Coming off a frustrating loss to the Bengals this past Sunday, it’s clear that the Ravens desperately need to pick up a win Thursday night, or risk going in the proverbial hole at 0-2 in both overall record and divisional record.
The Ravens may be without starting cornerback Lardarius Webb on Thursday for the second straight week. Assuming Jimmy Smith plays shadow coverage on Antonio Brown, who will soak up all the targets?
Antonio Brown can certainly make himself open regardless of who is covering him. He caught for 116 yards and a touchdown with Joe Haden shadowing him last week so he’s definitely still going to be Ben’s main target. Other than that, Markus Wheaton had a very impressive game in what was essentially his NFL debut given how little he played his rookie season last year due to a finger injury. Also, Le’Veon Bell contributed nearly 200 yards of offense between rushing and receiving so Ben really isn’t lacking in targets.
Le’Veon Bell looked vastly improved against the Browns over last year, both on the ground and through the air. Do you think he can repeat that success against the Raven’s stout front seven?
I think that Le’Veon Bell is a the real deal. He certainly impressed in the first game and is showing himself to be similar to the style of Franco Harris from back in the day. His patience at the line is really quite impressive and something a lot of backs get wrong. Baltimore is going to be tough to run against but I don’t think that is going to stop Bell from gaining yardage one way or another.
There is still a lot of uncertainty in who will be the most the most targeted and successful Ravens receiver this season. Against the Bengals, Steve Smith and the tight ends led the way, but history has shown Joe Flacco’s preference to target Torrey Smith the most. How do you think the Steelers will assign coverage on Thursday night?
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The Steelers secondary is a sore subject. They’re definitely the weakest unit on the team and in spite of William Gay’s top rating and big plays out on Sunday it’s likely that Ike Taylor will get the start over him as Gay is mostly featured in the nickel package. That being said it has been typical since last season that Cortez Allen will line up against the opposing team’s top receiver so I’d bet that would be Torrey Smith. I’d say let the two old guys; Steve Smith and Ike Taylor line up against each other and watch how that plays out. LOL
The Steelers built up a comfortable 24 point lead against the Browns, only to see it evaporate in the second half. Some coaches seem to soften up and play prevent defense when this happens, even though it frustrates fans. Is that something we can expect to see from the Steelers in 2014?
I think a lot of fans are expecting the Steelers offense to actually carry this team this season, which is a definite departure from the norm of what is considered “Steelers football”. This defense is just too young at this point to dominate opponents and the prevent defense seems to rear its ugly head at one point or another. It will be up to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense to carry the team and sustain drives even when they already have a lead for the team to be successful this season.
Both the Steelers and the Ravens are known for committing to the run. But after Todd Haley became the Steeler’s offensive coordinator, they have leaned more heavily on the passing game. Do you think the Steelers will capitalize on the Raven’s lack of depth in the secondary and rush less on Thursday night?
I don’t think the Steelers will rush less, unless that’s what the game is dictating. The Steelers had fewer than 30 rush attempts last week and I’d probably figure about the same amount with the scales tipped in the passing direction. I think the Steelers are definitely committed to the run for this year given how poorly the rushing game has been the last few years, but I would hope they wouldn’t ignore opportunities when they see a possible mismatch they could exploit just as I wouldn’t assume the Ravens won’t try to capitalize on the Steelers’ suspect secondary.
One thing’s for sure, we don’t expect a blowout no matter who wins the next round of this storied rivalry. With the last five games (and the last 8 out of 9) being decided by one score, it’s a pretty safe bet that this one will go down to the wire. The Ravens are 5-4 versus the Steelers this decade, and need to get that sixth win perhaps more than ever.
Thanks again to Kim for the insight! You can check out the five questions we answered about the Ravens for Nice Pick Cowher here.