Key Matchup #1
Key Matchup #2
CB William Gay and S Will Allen vs QB Joe Flacco and WR Steve Smith, Sr.
I don't know what it is but, when it comes to playing the quarterback position against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Joe Flacco seems to rise to another dimension. Flacco is only 7-7 against Pittsburgh, but the Baltimore signal caller has 17 touchdown passes versus six interceptions and 3,070 yards when facing them. In clutch moments against his main rival, Flacco can complete that crucial pass milliseconds before absorbing a crushing hit. This is painful to type.
Despite being winless in 2015, No. 5 has completed 65.08% of his passes for 863 yards and four touchdowns. That average of 287.67 yards per game ranks him eighth in the league. But four interceptions, especially the pick-six at the end of the third quarter in Denver, has taken off the luster and contributed to the team's winless start.
One of the main problems facing Flacco is the lack of quality wide receivers to throw to besides Triple S. Gone is Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Brashaud Perriman, their first-round selection hasn't seen the field yet due to injury. Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken have a combined 12 catches (six a piece) for 66 and 88 yards respectively. The tight ends have contributed, but they need more than one weapon to stretch the field.
Flacco's No. 1 dance partner is clearly Steve Smith. 30.49% of his completions (25) and 40.44% of his passing yards (349) have been due to hooking up with Smith Sr. This is a money combo and the Steelers shouldn't be surprised to see this tandem conspire against them to score.
Gay appears to be destined to lock horns with #89. So far this season, Big Play Will Gay has one pass defensed and has been the toughest Steeler corner to pass on for a team that ranks 19th in passing defense. He will need some help and that hopefully will come in the form of Will Allen.
Allen was lights-out in the St. Louis game and clearly has taken the reins as leader of the secondary. Against the Rams, Allen had seven tackles, an interception and one pass defensed.
If Gay and Allen, along with the rest of the Steeler defensive backfield, can silence the duet of Flacco and SSS...that can go a long way in the favor of a defense that no longer will need a high-powered offense to bail them out.