It's nearly becoming a cliche, but it's impossible to ignore the way Ben Roethlisberger has been playing as of late, mentally even more than physically. The Ravens present at least as difficult a challenge as the Browns did, and Roethlisberger played with an outstanding sense of tempo and rhythm. He did all this without a running game at his side. The Steelers racked up 141 rushing yards against Baltimore in their Week 7 win, which is nearly as rare as snow in Phoenix, so odds are good Roethlisberger will have the best chance of making an impact.
While the same can be said about the Steelers in many ways, the Ravens are one of the most one-dimensional offenses in the NFL right now. Averaging 2.9 yards a carry (tied for the worst mark in the league), they have failed flat-out to get a running game going. That's put a tremendous amount of pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco, who hasn't succeeded in answering that challenge. While Flacco has steadily improved against the Steelers in his last few games, without the diversity a strong running game can bring, the Steelers can choke the Ravens' offense out in front of their home crowd.
He has to have seen the fact Flacco has figured him out the last few times out. Perhaps that's too strong of a term, but the Steelers aren't facing the rookie version of Flacco anyone - the guy who threw three picks and fumbled twice by standard. He's been doing a considerably better job protecting the ball, and playing the CEO game (not taking losses, living to play another down). Considering the different personnel LeBeau now has at his disposal even just since the last time these teams met (Will Allen playing over Shamarko Thomas, Troy Polamalu at inside linebacker at times, Jason Worilds on the offensive right side), he has the advantage of surprise. LeBeau will have to concoct a few new wrinkles into the Steelers' defense to confuse Flacco into a few of the most critical factors of the game; turnovers.
The Ravens have arguably one of the two best pairs of pass rushers in the NFL, Elvis Dumervil and Steelers-killer Terrell Suggs. The best way to negate a pass rush is for the quarterback to not have the ball. Quick-release passing to Pittsburgh's quicker receivers can help stretch those pass rushers out wider in an effort to close off shorter passing lanes. Stretch runs right at either Suggs or Dumervil can help make them think twice about pushing up field quickly. The Steelers' offense can do those things, and probably will, in tonight's game.
All Brown needs to cement his 2013 season in a place among the all-time Steelers legends at his position is a huge game against their rival. The Ravens have held Brown in check in six career games - averaging three catches and 44 yards per contest, not yet having grabbed his first touchdown against them. Brown must rise to the challenge as a player who, last week, broke the Steelers' franchise record for consecutive games with six catches or more (11). The NFL's leading receiver with 80 catches has to lead this passing attack.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
Follow @NealCoolong Follow @btsteelcurtain Follow @SBNationNFL
- Steelers vs. Ravens Gameday Stream: Everything you need to know
- The Standard is The Standard: Steelers vs. Ravens pregame podcast
- 5 Questions with Baltimore Beat Down
- Fantasy Football Week 13: Which Steelers to start/sit
- Steelers vs. Ravens Week 13 2013: Game time, TV schedule, online streaming, odds and more