This game has never been about offensive stats. It's been about plays. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't in either game these teams played last year, but both came down to plays made - and in an indirect way, plays made by the quarterbacks made the bulk of the headlines. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't turn the ball over in the first game they played, and leaned on a return touchdown from Jacoby Jones to pace the Ravens to a win. Flacco was strip-sacked, leaving the door open for the Steelers in the re-match, and Charlie Batch marched the Steelers down the field for the game-winning field goal.
Roethlisberger is playing outstanding football over the last two weeks, and while he'll struggle to put up numbers like he did against the Jets, he's a playmaking quarterback, one that can move this offense down the field against an outstanding Ravens defense.
A gap pressure
It's no secret the Ravens are struggling quite a bit in protection up the middle. Center Gino Gradkowski has had six straight "Welcome to the NFL" games. Expect the Steelers to attack the A gap consistently, cutting Flacco's space to step and throw down considerably. Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward has played well this season, and could be a big factor in this game, along with nose tackle Steve McLendon.
The Ravens pass rush is rivaled right now by very few in the league. Expect the Steelers to use running back Le'Veon Bell to chip and release off the powerful outside rushers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, and challenge the Ravens' sideline speed. Bell is a capable open field runner, and can make defenders miss. The Steelers ran several screens at the Jets last week to help defray their pass rush, and it's even more important to do so in today's game.
The Ravens' secondary hasn't shown it can prevent the big play. Their deep secondary in particular has shown cracks, and cornerback LarDarius Webb does not appear to have gotten back to his top speed yet, a year after tearing his ACL. The Steelers have some match-up advantages in their passing game, if they have time to throw the ball.
Play action fun
That same Ravens secondary is susceptible to play-action passing, considering how aggressively the Ravens' front seven attacks the line of scrimmage. Ike Taylor will be locked on Torrey Smith for much of this game, but Baltimore isn't likely to have Webb follow Antonio Brown everywhere he goes. If he is, look for a metered amount of play-action passes aimed to hit Emmanuel Sanders on deep posts or flys. Jimmy Smith, Baltimore's other starting cornerback, isn't afraid to help in the run game, and that can be used against him.
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