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5 Questions with SB Nation's Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown

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Matthew Stevens joined us this week to discuss all things Ravens and Steelers as the division rivals prepare for their Week 2 meeting.

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Cranking these out on short weeks is tough enough but amid the biggest story the Baltimore Ravens have had in the last decade or so makes it even harder. Kudos to Batimore Beatdown's Matthew Stevens, who joins us for Five Questions heading into Thursday's Steelers at Ravens game.

Let's just get it out of the way. Do you see any negative impacts (distraction?) coming from the Ravens' decision to part ways with Ray Rice this week?

This is obviously the hot topic for the week given his release on Monday. It would be foolish to say that there won't be any distractions from this mess, but I do think the Ravens are disciplined enough to pay most of their attention on the Steelers. They know this will be a hard fought game and they should know to pay attention to what is in front of them rather than the past. That being said, I think having the whole thing hanging over their heads if he was still on the team might have been worse. You know that every player on the team watched that video and most should and probably would be disgusted with his action, certainly leaving it for a tense locker room for the remainder of the year if he was still a Ravens employee. So out of the two options, the Ravens nipped it in the bud, albeit a little later than they probably should have.

As I'm sure you can't either, I don't remember the last time the Ravens defense went without a sack like they did against Cincinnati. Was that the result of Cincinnati's quick-release passing scheme, or did the Ravens just not provide much pressure?

It was a combination of the two items. The Ravens stuffed the run at the line for the most part and it was apparent they paid more attention to the run than to anything else and they expected Dalton to screw up at some point. They got a little pressure but the quick passing scheme just ate up the defense for the first half. They came out in the second half and were able to better handle the Bengals offense but a lot of that came from the offense being able to string long drives together and getting the defense a little air time on the sideline.

In his Week 1 loss, Ravens QB Joe Flacco. threw 62 times. Give us an ideal range of pass attempts for him.

Definitely not 62 passes! With the other news peaking out this week, attention hasn't been where it should be and that is the Ravens completely abandoning that running game in favor of tossing it around. I will say that the Ravens did need to go into overdrive coming out of the half to get in a rhythm and they found a good one but looking back at those numbers, I'm not happy about that. Some of that split also comes down to some terrible drops from guys that must have had game one jitters, so there was a need to continue forward and get everyone's confidence back.

Realistically, I think the Ravens want to keep Flacco below 30 passing attempts. That means that the running game is doing what it should be and is opening up passing lanes for Flacco so he doesn't have to take as many chances in tight windows.

Scoring in the red zone is very difficult against the Ravens. Baltimore and Cincinnati were a combined 1-for-5 in the red zone in Week 1. Do you expect a similar kind of performance Sunday both offensively and defensively?

Welcome to the Ravens defense over the last few years. We'll give you yards but lock down the endzone. I expect the defense to continue with that same type of performance every week this year, but with slight differences if guys like Lardarius Webb can get on the field. I expect the offense to come out firing this week against the Steelers. Seeing the box score from last week's Steelers game gives me hope that the Ravens can get on a roll at times, not to mention that I expect the Ravens to come out swinging (pun intended) to show that Rice's departure doesn't slow this team down. Hopefully they have gotten out all of their drops last week and we can keep drives alive.

The Ravens get Dennis Pitta back fully from injury this year, and they signed free agent WR Steve Smith. Between the two, they had 30 targets but only 17 catches. Do you expect that kind of distribution again Thursday, and what will they need to do to increase their targets-to-catches ratio?

I expect about half those numbers of throws on Thursday. I noticed that Steve Smith is playing the role that I expected him to play; Flacco's sure handed target over the middle on 3rd and 5. Unfortunately he dropped a lot of balls last week, but I'm chalking that up to him just having jitters playing for a new team and trying to do too much. I think Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta are the two targets that Flacco will look at the most this year because they are more sure handed and they get open. Unfortunately we are still seeing Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith fail to get open on underneath routes and until they do that, it will be the Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta show.

Read everything from Baltimore Beatdown leading into Thursday's night game, and follow them on Twitter @BmoreBeatdown

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $250,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first place wins $25,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.