Justin K. Aller
The most important question is how the Steelers will replace Big Ben.
History says the Pittsburgh Steelers could be in trouble against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. Ben Roethlisberger, who will not play in the game due to rib and shoulder injuries, has missed the Ravens game four times due to injury or suspension.
And the Steelers have lost every one of those games.
Roethlisberger is out and the Steelers could be playing the first of several games without him as some reports have him missing three weeks, possibly longer.
Nevertheless, the season goes on for Pittsburgh, who will trot out Byron Leftwich on Sunday night.
Ravens-Steelers games are always defined by the defense and this one shouldn't be any different. Here are three things to keep an eye on in the game:
1. Find what Leftwich does best and stick to it
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley will not force anything on Byron Leftwich. Haley tweaks his offense to fit what his personnel does well. While he was with the Cardinals, that was a high flying passing attack. While he was with the Chiefs, that was one of the league's top rushing attacks. So the Steelers offense will be tailored around what Leftwich does well, not what Big Ben does well. Mostly, though, the Steelers need Leftwich to avoid costly turnovers. The running game along with a strong performance from the Steelers defense is what Pittsburgh hopes will keep them competitive in this game.
2. Make Joe Flacco and the Ravens earn it
Flacco is developing a reputation of a guy who can make you pay for making mistakes in coverage. Flacco has a monster arm and can make every throw in the book but he's a beast at the deep ball, especially those that go to Torrey Smith. The Steelers can not be vulnerable at the back end of their coverage. They should let Flacco and the Ravens offense dink and dunk their way down the field but Pittsburgh can't make it easy for Baltimore. Eliminate the deep balls in Baltimore's offense and make them score on the Steelers defense on 10, 11 and 12-play drives instead of 70-yard bombs.
3. Whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game
A pick-six from Ed Reed? Key sack from a Steelers linebacker? Byron Leftwich fumble? Whatever it is, there's going to be a game-changing turnover in this game, as there always is between these two teams. The winner of this game will be not just the team that wins the turnover battle but the team who capitalizes on those turnovers. Both defenses are elite so there won't be a lot of 10-play drives in this game. The team that can capitalize on good field position off of a turnover will have the best shot at winning.
My prediction on the game: 16-9, Ravens