(Baltimore): WR Lee Evans-He was acquired to add something the Ravens offense has been missing and that was speed on the outside. Look for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to come up with ways to get Evans in one-on-one matchups with the Steelers secondary. Evans presence should open up things underneath for WR Anquan Boldin, TE Ed Dickson, and RB Ray Rice.
(Pittsburgh): Steelers defense-In the two regular season meetings in 2010 the Steelers defense held the Ravens offense to 166.3 passing ypg and 92.8 rushing ypg. The Steelers linebackers of James Farrior, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, and LaMarr Woodley can be dominant against the run or the pass. Safety Troy Polamalu is the straw that stirs the drink and is everywhere on the field.
Baltimore Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense: The Ravens offense needs to produce more big plays against the Pittsburgh defense. They have made some key additions such as: WR Lee Evans, WR Torrey Smith, LT Bryant McKinnie, and FB Vonta Leach just to offset the Pittsburgh defensive pressure. Look for the Steelers to continue to pressure QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice. Pittsburgh's defense will probably continue to rotate their defensive scheme towards WR Anquan Boldin on 3rd downs and obvious passing situations. In three games against Pittsburgh last year Boldin totaled 13 catches, 184 yards, and one td. WR Lee Evans and WR Torrey Smith will have some opportunities at making big plays in the passing game.
Baltimore Defense vs. Pittsburgh Offense: The Ravens defense is dominant against the run, but must improve against the pass to claim the top defensive unit spot. There are four stars on this unit that i call the fantastic four: DT Haloti Ngata, OLB/DE Terrell Suggs, MLB Ray Lewis, and S Ed Reed. General rule of thumb when attacking this defense is to first double team DT Haloti Ngata, second you must help out the tackle with a chip by the running back against T-Sizzle, third don't throw the ball in the middle of the field near MLB Ray Lewis, and last definitely don't throw the ball anywhere in safety Ed Reed's area code. Failure to follow one of these rules by the Pittsburgh offense may result in a turnover or QB sack. Pittsburgh offense relies on the running game and will give you a heavy dose of RB Rashard Mendenhall, but they now can spread you out if need be. WR's Mike Wallace, WR Antonio Brown, and WR Emanuel Sanders will test out the Ravens CB's deep from time to time.
Key Stats: NFL Rank(2010 season) Yardage per game Category
Baltimore-- (14th) 114.4 Rushing Offense
(5th) 93.9 Rushing Defense
(20th) 208.4 Passing Offense
(21st) 224.9 Passing Defense
Pittsburgh-- (11th) 120.3 Rushing Offense
(1st) 62.8 Rushing Defense
(14th) 225.1 Passing Offense
(12th) 214.1 Passing Defense
Pittsburgh's interior offensive line (versus) DT Haloti Ngata and NT Terrence Cody: Led by pro bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers need to neutralize these two big men to have success in running the football in between the tackles and also in short yardage situations. Pittsburgh relies on the run first so if they can't keep these two guys from getting consistent pressure in the backfield and collapsing the pocket the pressure will fall on QB Ben Rothlisberger to make more plays in the passing game. This takes me right into my next key matchup.
Baltimore's secondary (versus) Pittsburgh's wide receivers: Last year in the playoffs when these two teams met it was the Steelers wideouts who made big plays which helped them secure a win. The Ravens drafted CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado) in the first round to help shore up the secondary. Along with CB's Chris Carr, Dominique Foxworth, Cary Williams, and Lardarius Webb the Ravens must limit the big passing plays by the Steelers. Veteran safety Ed Reed is the lone shining star of this unit. Pittsburgh over the past few years has added speed to their wideouts unit. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emanuel Sanders all can stretch the field and put pressure on the defense while Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller work underneath to keep the chains moving.
Final Word: QB Joe Flacco is 2-6 against the Steelers as a starter. In the last seven regular season games between the two teams it has been decided by six points or fewer. That means one or two big plays for either team by the way of offense or creating turnovers on defense usually resulted in a win by that team. The Steelers defense has made QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense look ordinary at times. The Ravens added WR Lee Evans to give Flacco a legitimate deep threat and add speed to combat the Steelers aggressive zone blitz scheme. Flacco needs to take his game to that next level and lead the team in the same manner as QB Ben Rothlisberger does for the Steelers. If Flacco can make plays in the passing game the Ravens should be victorious, but if the Ravens offensive line fails to protect him and give him time in the pocket against the Steelers defensive pressure it will be tough to come out with a victory. The Steelers should continue to do what they do well and that's running the football and play stingy defense. Turnovers may be the deciding factor in this divisional matchup.