Ravens can salvage season with win against the Steelers minus Ben Roethlisberger


Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) talks to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after their 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. The Ravens won 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody wants to see an NFL star go down with an injury, even if that star is on your favorite team’s most hated foe.  Well, unless you’re the sadistic type.  But as we get ready for Thursday night football and the continuance of the great rivalry that is the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, there’s no doubt that the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a bonus for the Ravens.

Big Ben was on an absolute tear through the first three games of the season before he was cut down on a scary looking hit that caused the mammoth of a man to crumble to the ground.  To this point in the 2015 season, he had completed 67 of 89 passes (75.3%) for 912 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 113.1 rating.  He is also Pro Football Focus’ top ranked quarterback thus far.

The return of all-world running back Le’Veon Bell, a true dual threat, in week 3 only promised to make the Steelers’ offense more potent.  Roethlisberger also has arguably the best wide receiver in football to throw to in Antonio Brown.

Now, the Steelers must turn to Michael Vick, a player whose name is currently bigger than his game. Appearing in 10 games for the New York Jets last season, Vick was one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks and is a turnover machine.  Despite playing only 18 snaps and attempting only 6 passes, Vick managed to fumble and take a sack against the Rams last week.

The Steelers are going to have to limit Vick’s attempts moving forward if they hope to avoid a disastrous collapse.  Their defense simply isn’t good enough to win games, meaning that a ball control offense and a heavy emphasis on the run is absolutely necessary.

Sep 27, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Michael Vick (2) throws the ball during the second half against St. Louis Rams at The Edward Jones Dome. Pittsburgh Steelers won 12-6. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Which is a pretty sound plan when you have arguably the NFL’s best running back.  But the Ravens’ run defense looked dominant against the Bengals’ stellar offensive line and running backs last week, holding them to 86 yards rushing and a mere 2.8 yard per carry average.

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That performance isn’t a fluke, either.  The Ravens spot the NFL’s 4th best run defense after 3 games. Their weakness lies in the secondary, where they employ the league’s 22nd best pass defense.  Even top corner Jimmy Smith has found himself getting burned in coverage so far.

Antonio Brown can undoubtedly be a threat no matter who is throwing him the ball, but Vick has never been an accurate quarterback over the course of his career, completing only 56.1% of his passes across 13 seasons.  Combine that with his penchant for turnovers, and you’ve got a recipe for failure.

The Ravens’ season might already be doomed after an 0-3 start, but a divisional road win this week would obviously be huge for their chances as well as their morale.  If they can avoid mistakes and slow down the Steelers’ ground game, it might just be their best shot to stay alive early in the season.

Next: Ravens: Doomed to failure in 2015?

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