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Steelers secondary to be tested by Ravens depth at receiver

After falling behind early to Cincinnati in Week 1, the Ravens diversified their passing attack to get back into the game.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ike Taylor and Steve Smith don't know each other too well.

That will surely change after Thursday night.

They've played a combined 26 seasons but have only played each other twice, with Smith being held to seven catches for 73 yards as Taylor's Steelers won both contests handily against Smith's former team, the Carolina Panthers.

On Thursday, Smith vs. Taylor could be one of the key match ups as the Steelers take on the Ravens in Baltimore.

It didn't take Smith long to gel with Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 345 yards, completing 35-of-62 passes on Sunday. In his first game as a Raven, Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, paced Baltimore with 118 yards receiving on seven grabs that included an 80-yard touchdown in the Ravens 23-16 Week 1 loss to Cincinnati.

Smith was one of seven Ravens receivers to catch a pass from Flacco Sunday, with five Baltimore receivers catching at least four passes. Flacco looked early and often to the tight end duo of Dennis Pita and Owen Daniels, who combined for 14 catches for 117 yards, with the former pulling in 10 passes for 83 yards.

Taylor, fellow corner Cortez Allen, and safeties Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell will need to be up to the task of providing sterling coverage on both deep and intermediate routes. It's also up to Pittsburgh's linebackers to watch Baltimore's running backs and tight ends, as this group was responsible for 19 of Flacco's completions last Sunday.

Look for Flacco to test youngsters Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier in short passing situations. Shazier was very solid in his NFL debut last Sunday, leading Pittsburgh's linebackers with six tackles (five solo stops) and a pass deflection on third down in the Steelers 30-27 win over Cleveland.

If Pittsburgh can blanket Baltimore's receivers, Flacco-not the most mobile of quarterbacks-will be forced to either throw the ball away or succumb to the Steelers' pass rush, which tallied three sacks and five hits on Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer.

Despite rolling up 420 yards on offense and 26 first downs, the Ravens scored only 16 points, in large measure because of their lack of red-zone production. Baltimore was 1-for-3 in the red zone Sunday, including a sack that killed their final drive of the first half at the Bengals 15 yard line. A fourth-down sack of Flacco just outside the red zone ended the Ravens comeback hopes with a minute remaining in the game.

But the match-up I'm most looking forward to is Steve Smith vs. Ike Taylor. Because both are vocal players and fierce competitors, I wouldn't be surprised to see emotions boil over between these two at some point during the game. It is the Ravens vs. Steelers, after all.