(Baltimore): RB Ray Rice - The little big man is the heart of the offense and more times than not if he has a great game stats wise the Ravens offense is really good and chances of winning are great. Rice has rushed for 489 yards and 5 tds and is second on the team with 33 receptions for 373 yards and 2 tds. He can do it all, rushing and receiving out of the backfield. Rice rushed over 100 yards against the Steelers in week 1 back in Baltimore and scored a total of 2 tds. The Ravens should try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible if they want to win at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
(Pittsburgh): QB Ben Rothlisberger - Known as "Big Ben" he has been just that over the last four weeks. The Steelers running game has been struggling of late and Big Ben has elevated his game throwing 11 tds and only 2 ints in that time frame. Rothlisberger has something Pittsburgh has been lacking over the years and that is speed at the wide receiver positions. The Ravens have a stout run defense so Big Ben and teammates will have to make plays in the passing game to be successful. In the first meeting between these two teams Rothlisberger had a bad game committing 5 turnovers by himself. Ben will look to redeem himself in this game.
Pittsburgh Offense vs. Baltimore Defense: The Steelers offense for decades has been about running the ball down your throat. They now have become more reliant on QB Ben Rothlisberger's arm and the passing game using several speed receivers like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emanuel Sanders. Crafty veteran WR Hines Ward is still a reliable target and can convert 3rd downs to keep drives alive. The Pittsburgh offensive line has been hit with some injuries and struggles at times protecting Rothlisberger and opening holes in the running game. RB Rashard Mendenhall's production has suffered because of the offensive line play. The Steelers face the Ravens defense that is ranked no.1 in the NFL. The main reason is what I call "The Fantastic Four." The playmakers are NT Haloti Ngata, OLB Terrell Suggs, MLB Ray Lewis, and FS Ed Reed. No other team in the league comes close to having a nucleus like this except the Steelers and that's a good reason they are ranked the no.2 defense in the NFL. The best thing an opposing offense can do against "The Fantastic Four" is to call plays away from them if you can. In the first game back in September Haloti Ngata had 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery, Terrell Suggs had 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, Ray Lewis had 1 int and 1 forced fumble, and Ed Reed hauled in 2 ints. They forced Pittsburgh into 7 total turnovers 5 by QB Ben Rothlisberger.
Pittsburgh Defense vs. Baltimore Offense: The Pittsburgh defense can be just as suffocating as the Ravens defense. If the Ravens defense is called "The Fantastic 4" then the Steelers defense should be called "The Hawaii Five-O." They can police the field as good as any team in the NFL. They have four superb linebackers in MLB James Farrior, MLB Lawrence Timmons, OLB James Harrison, and OLB LaMarr Woodley. This unit can come up and stop the run, drop in coverage against the pass, and pressure the QB resulting in sacks or turnovers. Depending on who you ask safety Troy Polamalu maybe the best safety in the league along with the Ravens safety Ed Reed. He is great at making game changing plays for his team. He can come up in the box and stuff the run or blitz the QB. In coverage he always seems to be around the ball to make a big hit or interception. When "Hawaii Five-O" is on top of their game they are hard to move the ball on. The Ravens offense goes through RB Ray Rice who is equally adept at receiving the ball out of the backfield as he is at running the ball. Baltimore added some key personnel in the off season just to defeat the Steelers and try to win the division in 2011. They added LT Bryant McKinnie (from the Minnesota Vikings), FB Vontae Leach(Houston Texans), WR Lee Evans (Buffalo Bills), and CB Jimmy Smith(2011 1st round draft pick). QB Joe Flacco has had some good moments but has yet to take control of the reins and make this team his. Baltimore's passing game needs to utilize the forward pass a little more and get the ball down the field to their playmakers of WR Anquan Boldin, WR Torrey Smith, TE Ed Dickson, and TE Dennis Pita. This offense and team will only go as far as QB Joe Flacco takes them with his play.
Baltimore (NFL Rank & Yards) Pittsburgh (NFL Rank & Yards)
Rush Off. 18th - 107.0ypg 14th - 115.4ypg
Pass Off. 15th - 234.0ypg 8th - 273.4ypg
Rush Def. 3rd - 89.1ypg 8th - 99.1ypg
Pass Def. 3rd - 174.1ypg 1st - 171.6ypg
Total Offense: 14th 9th
Total Defense: 1st 2nd
Points per game: 26.4ppg (7th) 22.0ppg (19th)
RB Ray Rice (versus) Steelers Linebackers: Rice presents many challenges to every opponent they face. He can run well between the tackles, can bounce it outside and has burst to turn the corner, and he has great hands and agility he uses well when catching the ball on routes out of the backfield. He is a dynamic running back and Baltimore should get the ball to him as much as possible. The Steelers linebackers will have the assignment of containing Rice. It might be a little difficult to do in this game with so many of them nursing injuries. OLB LaMarr Woodley is out with a hamstring injury, MLB James Farrior is questionable with calf injury, and OLB James Harrison is trying to return from an eye injury. This is not a good sign when you have a player like Ray Rice coming to your place. In the first game between the two teams Rice rushed for over 100 yards and scored 2 tds.
NT Haloti Ngata and OLB/DE Terrell Suggs (versus) Pittsburgh's Offensive Line: In Baltimore for more than a decade the Ravens defense was led by MLB Ray Lewis. Lately the defense all starts with NT Haloti Ngata. He has the size, strength, and agility for a big man to dominate the other teams interior offensive line. He has to be double teamed every snap if not he will end up in the offensive backfield stopping your running back for no gain, sack the QB, or cause a turnover with his disruptiveness. He is the ultimate beast. His teammate OLB Terrell Suggs is just as disruptive and can't be blocked by one man and leads the Ravens with 6 sacks. Pittsburgh has been battling with injuries all season with their offensive line especially on the right side with RT Johnathan Scott and RG Doug Legursky out. The one main constant is pro bowl center Maurkice Pouncey who keeps the pocket from collapsing up the middle and allows QB BEN Rothlisberger to step up in the pocket to make throws. Pouncey and the Steelers guards will have to keep Haloti Ngata from wreaking havoc on Big Ben and their running backs. In the first meeting week 1 Ngata made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage and forced Rothlisberger into several turnovers. This matchup will be huge for the Pittsburgh offense.
Final Word: This game has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL. The stakes seem to always be high whenever they matchup and take the field whether it be for winning the division or eliminating the other to advance in the playoffs. They both are so similar in their style of play. Each team wants to control the game with a balanced offense of running the ball and taking shots downfield with the passing game when the opportunities arise. The first game between the Steelers and Ravens back in September was unusually lopsided with Baltimore winning 35-7 at home. These two teams usually play close games. The previous last 5 games before the 35-7 whooping by the Ravens had been decided by seven points or fewer with a field goal being the difference 4 times. This should be another slugfest with the Ravens coming into the game ranked as the number 1 defense and the Steelers close behind ranking at number 2. The game will probably be decided by which team's QB can make the most big plays in the passing game and whomever wins the turnover battle. This was evident in the first game with QB Joe Flacco having a great game with 224 yards passing and 3 tds. While QB Ben Rothlisberger passed for 280 yards but threw 3 ints and lost 2 fumbles. Ballgame.