Baltimore Ravens opponent preview: Pittsburgh Steelers


This season couldn’t have started much worse for the Baltimore Ravens, as they’re 0-3 and now have a short week to face the 2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

It’s only week 4 and this may already be the Ravens most important game of the season. Not only is it important to avoid going 0-4 and 0-2 in the division, its the Steelers. And not just any Steelers team, a Steelers team that now boasts one of the best offenses in the league, just as the Ravens defense is seemingly in decline.

However, this game may  not be as daunting as it may seem.

On Sunday against the St Louis Rams, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a gruesome looking knee injury.  Luckily for Steelers fans, it is not as serious as it initially seemed. The injury does mean that Big Ben will miss at least 4-6 weeks, giving Mike Vick the keys to one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.

This may be a good omen for the Ravens as they are 5-1 against the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger isn’t playing. That said, the Steelers have more than enough talent to take advantage of some of the Ravens weaknesses.

On the outside they have Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the NFL and right next to AJ Green as one of the Ravens main bugaboo’s over the last few seasons. He has 38 catches for 460 yards and 1 touchdown over the last 5 games. He’s such a versatile player, and despite not getting in the end zone much, he is a big play threat whenever he has the ball.

Along with Brown, Le’Veon Bell is putting himself in the conversation for the best running back in the NFL. Last year, having lost weight, he looked like the ideal running back. He runs with incredible patience and has the speed and quickness to exploit a running lane with extreme efficiency.

Bell is also incredibly elusive in space and has the ability to make a man miss or has the power to run them over – or he’ll go straight over a would-be tackler. Furthermore, he can be used an an extra receiver – he had 83 catches last year for 854 yards.

Brown and Bell both make Vick’s job a lot easier. He simply needs to get the ball in either one of these player’s hands and let them do the rest.  Even if it’s just dump offs and quick, short throws, Brown and Bell have unbelievable run-after-catch ability. This can only be a good thing for a player who’s always struggled with turnovers.

Sep 27, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Will Allen (20) celebrates with teammates after a play during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at The Edward Jones Dome. Pittsburgh Steelers won 12-6. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ defense, however, is not what is used to be. That said, they’re no walk-over either.

The defense still boasts Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, and Cam Heyward, who provide the backbone of strong front seven which includes plenty of youth acquired over the past few drafts. Players including Ryan Shazier (out for tonight), Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, and Jarvis Jones are all having an impact on this defense.

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Through the first 3 weeks the Steelers’ defense has allowed just 87.3 rushing yards per game, which is not a great sign for a struggling Ravens’ rushing attack. The defense’s success is largely due to Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Steve McClendon consuming oncoming blockers. Behind the d-line, Lawrence Timmons and Shazier are both more than capable to come down and lay a hit on opposing running backs.

However, the Steelers struggles come against the pass. They’ve allowed 255.3 yards per game through the air (19th in the league). The secondary has been a problem for the Steelers for a few years now, and the departure of Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu this offseason didn’t help. They’ve managed just 1 interception in 3 games and have allowed several big plays through the air.  Hopefully the Ravens can find a way to take advantage of that.

Next: Can the Ravens dominant run defense stop Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell?

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