The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are preparing to square off on Sunday Night Football in Week 14, and there’s plenty at stake for both AFC North teams. As the players prepare for the game, I wanted to get the lowdown on Pittsburgh’s familiar foe coming to Heinz Field.
I was able to speak with Baltimore Beatdown’s (SB Nation’s Ravens website) writer Kyle Andrews to get a grip on what’s going on behind enemy lines. Check out the interview below, and be sure to check out Baltimore Beatdown for the latest news, from Baltimore’s perspective.
The Ravens have gotten back on track. What has been the difference for the team between the slow start to now?
The biggest issues with the Ravens have stemmed from the injuries. Baltimore lost offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (fractured ankle), Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Nico Siragusa (torn knee ligaments) all have been lost for the season. Another player that has dealt with injuries has been Brandon Williams. With his absence, Baltimore's run defense took a hit.
However, Baltimore has been able to clean up their poor offensive line play with guards James Hurst and Matt Skura playing well. Williams has since returned and so has Baltimore's run defense. Though they are ranked 16th in the league in stopping the run (112.7 yards per game allowed), they have played much better of late.
Baltimore has been crushed with injuries, but they’re still winning. Name some players stepping up in a big way with whom Steelers fans may not be familiar.
The aforementioned Hurst and Skura have been pretty solid. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey has stepped up as well.
In your opinion, what are the keys to victory for the Ravens, both offensively and defensively?
Offensively, Baltimore has to go for blood in the secondary. Joe Haden is missing and unfortunately, Ryan Shazier is missing from the blitz. If Baltimore's offensive line can keep Joe Flacco upright, he may be able to have a similar game to what he had against the Detroit Lions. They also have to run the ball with Alex Collins more. He averages 4.9 yards per carry and has earned his stripes since being picked up off of the practice squad.
As for the defense. Baltimore needs to put Ben Roethlisberger under heavy pressure. He may not have the mobility in the pocket that he once had, but he is still one of the toughest quarterbacks in football.
Put on your offensive coordinator hat for a moment. How would you draw up an offense to beat the Ravens' stout defense?
The playbook is called "Attack Brandon Carr". Though he has three interceptions on the season, he has a 71.2 PFF rating. He isn't bad at what he does, but he also isn't going to have a good shot at stopping elite receivers. Antonio Brown will go to town on him, even at maybe 80%.
What is your prediction for the upcoming prime-time game?
I think it will be an extremely close game and it will come down to a field goal. I envision that the Steelers will be the victor because they are the better team and they are playing at home. 20-17 Steelers.