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Steelers Vs. Ravens, Week 4

– This should (the keyword – SHOULD) be a close, low-scoring slugfest, which is the norm when these two teams face each other. Personally, I think whichever offense breaks out of what should be very conservative gameplans first has a definite advantage. Mixing up the plays is a must for both teams.

– Baltimore has struggled a good bit on offense so far, averaging just 14 points a game and 23rd in total offensive yards. The Ravens will probably try to run the ball with Ray Rice, although the team have struggled in the run game so far, ranked 23rd in rushing yards so far and averaging just 3.1 yards a carry. Rice, though, has averaged 4 yards a carry and is a dangerous back. It could be argued that Cam Cameron has failed to use him enough, Rice is averaging just 17 carries a game. QB Joe Flacco has struggled big time so far, with just a 54% completion percentage and a 66 QB Rating.

– The Ravens defense is actually ranked 1st overall in the NFL in total defense and in pass defense, which is surprising considering who is starting in the secondary (Ed Reed has been injured). But upon closer inspection, it’s not really that surprising with the Ravens run defense ranked just 22nd in the NFL. Also, when you consider who the Ravens have faced so far – The Jets (21st in offense), the Bengals (15th in offense) and the Browns (19th in offense), the Ravens first overall ranking in defenses starts to make a little more sense. No doubt, this is still a good defense, how good? Well, they haven’t really been tested yet.

– The Steelers (ranked 3rd in rushing yards vs. the Ravens 22nd run defense) will no doubt run the ball a lot with Mendenhall and Redman. I believe Mendy will get some yards and will be effective at times (especially if used later in the game) , but the Ravens will be stacking 8 in the box for most of the game, making it tough sledding at times. For the Steelers to actually move the ball and sustain drives, Batch will need to be allowed to throw the ball on early downs at times. There’s a decent chance the Steelers will not use the passing game much on early downs and play it conservatively(similar to the first 2 games of the season) against the Ravens 1st ranked defense, not wanting to make mistakes. The Steelers can still win with this approach but it will make it possibly more difficult and no doubt put more pressure on the Steelers defense to win the game.

– Interestingly, as great as the Steelers defense has played thus far, the team is ranked only 6th overall in total defense and 17th in pass defense. The Steelers should be able to control the Ravens struggling offense, but watch out for the following three players – Ray Rice, Todd Heap and Anquan Boldin. The Steelers need to be mindful of who is covering the fast and dangerous Rice at all times. Last year, the Steelers got burnt with James Farrior covering Rice, this can’t happen again or there could be trouble. Heap is still producing and could be a factor in this game. Boldin is off to a nice start with 20 catches already and a 14 yard average. Ike Taylor will need to have a good game. The verteran Derrick Mason seems to always have good games against the Steelers. If the Steelers give up big cushions in this game that could lead to sustained drives from the Ravens. Pressure and playing smart will be key for the Steelers defense in this game.

– The Steelers O-line will face another test against a tough and nasty Ravens D-line. The O-line needs to play smart on passing downs and allow Batch time to throw it.

– Special teams and field position will probably play a bigger role in a game that should be conservative and defensive. The Steelers need to make sure they don’t get pinned back into their own end, that’s a recipe for disaster in a game like this.

– The Steelers seem to always play great when the team gets no respect and has an “us against the world” mentality. Well, the Steelers are getting respect now. Will the team continue to play great?

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