For Week 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens might be as big a game as they get on the NFL schedule. No, both teams don’t have stellar records, but there is a ridiculous amount of significance in the matchup set to go down at 1 p.m. EDT at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD Sunday.
To get the low down on the Ravens, we got to chat with Kyle Barber, editor of BaltimoreBeatdown (SB Nation’s Ravens site). Check out the complete interview below, and be sure to hit up the Beatdown for all the news on the Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens have had an up-and-down season, starting 3-0 and then losing 4 straight. Which portion of the season does this team most resemble? The 3-0 version, or 0-4?
They really resemble the 0-4 look moreso than 3-0. The constant injury issues the Ravens are facing, Joe Flacco's return from ACL surgery combined with terrible coaching culminate towards the losing streak. Against the Jets, the Ravens put up their worst rushing total in franchise history. This is how bad the Ravens are playing. There was three of five starters missing on the line though, which will be corrected this Sunday. For us, that's great news.
Joe Flacco doesn't look comfortable in the pocket. In your experience watching No. 5 on a weekly basis, is this because of a lack of time to throw, poor offensive line play or him not trusting his surgically repaired knee. Or is it something else?
As mentioned earlier, it's the offensive line. James Hurst playing left tackle can be used as a torture technique. Combine this with Marshal Yanda being absent, rather using two guards and the Ravens aren't giving Joe the two seconds plus needed for receivers to get open. Joe has been shaky in the pocket, but no doubt even the best QB's would be quaking in their cleats behind this line.
One aspect of the Ravens which surprises me is how they have run through offensive coordinators in recent years. What is the feeling from the fan base in regards to the ongoing turnover at the coordinator job?
Frustration. Baltimore needs to put points on the board to win. It's absolutely maddening knowing your franchise quarterback can't stick to a single scheme year after year from turnover.
The Ravens defense seems to be rejuvenated in 2016, but if there is a weakness in the group, what would it be? And how do you see them matching up with Pittsburgh in this area?
Cornerback and pass rushers. Baltimore cannot seem to cover two or more receivers on any given play. Jimmy Smith will blanket one, while it takes five guys to cover the next two or three pass catchers on the field. It also does not help when Elvis Dumervil is still not playing, leaving offenses to double team Terrell Suggs. Both Za'Darius Smith and Matt Judon can't break through the one-on-one blocks from the right side to create pressure, allowing quarterbacks time in the pocket. This will absolutely benefit Big Ben and of course, Antonio Brown.
It has been well documented just how close these games can be between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. How do you see this game unfolding, and let's assume Ben Roethlisberger is in the lineup for the Steelers.
Knock down drag out win for the Ravens or a blowout victory for the Steelers. The Ravens are coming back quite healthy after the bye week. Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley are both healthy, which gives the Ravens the biggest chance to succeed. Giving Joe time in the pocket and also creating running lanes for Terrance West is the template for success. On the other side, Baltimore's cornerback situation is still a mess outside Jimmy Smith. Ladarius Webb at safety isn't helping either. Right around the second or third quarter is when teams realize they can toss it at CB2 for first downs it gets hairy. Doesn't help only Terrell Suggs is capable of being a pass rusher. To those that don't know, Suggs is playing with a torn biceps injury, leaving him less than 100%. Like I said, expect Baltimore to win it on the leg of Justin Tucker, or expect Ben & Co. to embarrass Baltimore at home with a blowout.