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Steelers-Ravens Divisional Playoff Preview

The heated rivalry continues tomorrow. Let’s get right down to it.

Ravens on Offense – The Ravens will probably keep the runs to a minimum in this game and substitute a short passing game in it’s place. The Ravens know it’s a futile pursuit to run the ball too much against the Steelers defense, combine that with the fact that Flacco is now in his 3rd year and look for a lot of passing from this offense tomorrow. The Steelers defense will have to keep a close eye on Todd Heap and Ray Rice AT ALL TIMES. These will be Flacco’s safety valves in the short passing game over the middle. Flacco will no doubt attempt some deep balls. Steelers cannot play it overly safe in anticipation of these plays. The Ravens offense will be made or broken on the short passing game. The worst thing that can happen tomorrow for the Steelers is letting Flacco off with easy short completions. Flood the field in this area. The Ravens will probably chip and double team Harrison in passing situations. Woodley has had monster games in the playoffs in the past, let’s see if it continues, there’s a good chance he’ll see single blocking a good bit of the game. His play could make or break crucial situations in the game. With Harrison likely getting double-teamed a good bit, the middle of the offensive line will be open for delayed blitzes. Look for Timmons and Farrior up the middle.

Steelers on Offense – It’ll be interesting to see how the Steelers offense attacks the Ravens defense in the 1st half of this game. Will it be a tentative gameplan that we’ve seen a good majority of the season or will the Steelers be in attack mode from the onset of the game? It’s no secret that Mendenhall has run very tentatively against the Ravens so far in his career. If Mendenhall just has a decent game running with the ball (ie, just a few nice runs) it could do wonders for playaction passes to Wallace downfield. There is a chance that the Steelers run a good bit of no-huddle in this game but the coaches may feel the game will be low-scoring and that approach would be unnecessarily risky (they would be wrong!), and instead opt to go the overly conservative route, which will no doubt result in what they expected – a tight, low-scoring game. I believe this offense, running the no-huddle or up tempo offense, can score a decent amount of points on this Ravens defense. Unfortunately history has shown that the Steelers generally do not run this type of offense against the Ravens until the end of close games. For this offense to score over 20 points and put the odds more in their favor of winning this game, running an aggressive offense featuring all the weapons on this team (Wallace, Ward, Miller and maybe most importantly the rookie WR’s – Sanders and Brown) is a must. This cannot be stressed enough – there is absolutely no reason for Antwaan Randel El to see the field more than is absolutely necessary. His presence, more often than not, just handicaps this offense. Regardless of what approach the Steelers offense takes, try not to snap the ball with just 1 second left on the gameclock! That could be HUGE in passing situations.

Special teams and turnovers – It’s pretty obvious that these two areas could have huge implications on who wins this game. Especially if the game is tight and fairly low scoring. The Steelers special teams coverage has been on a decline for a good bit of the season. This will have to improve. The Steelers have had one of the best turnover ratios in the entire NFL (2nd best, in fact).

5 Signs The Steelers Are Going To Lose –

1. Flacco is having a fairly easy day hitting short passes.

2. The Steelers offense hasn’t scored more than 10 points headed into the 4th quarter.

3. Mendenhall is running overly tentative and afraid of contact. And he has over 20 carries.

4.  The Ravens are winning the turnover battle and it’s costing the Steelers points.

5. Ravens have completed some deep balls for big gains.

5 Signs the Steelers Are Going To Win –

1. Flacco is struggling. The Steelers have gotten a good amount of pressure on him.

2. The Steelers offense has scored 20 or more points.

3. Mendenhall has had a couple nice runs. The run game has had around 80-100 yards.

4. The Steelers offense is snapping the ball well before there is 1 second left on the gameclock. Coincidentally, Suggs only has 1 sack.

5. The Steelers have continued to use the short, quick passing attack that we saw in the last couple games of the season.

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