Ravens vs. Steelers 2013 game preview: Baltimore, Pittsburgh face off in AFC North matchup

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers go head to head on Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7. Unlike their usual showdowns, this one isn't a battle for first place in the division as the 3-3 Ravens are tied for second place with the Cleveland Browns behind the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers, meanwhile, are struggling mightily at 1-4, last in the division.

Mike Tomlin is having his worst season as Pittsburgh's head coach and seems to be losing a grip on his team. The Steelers did win their first game of the season in Week 6, a solid 19-6 win over the surprisingly-decent New York Jets. The Ravens are coming off a loss to the Green Bay Packers and trying to buck a trend of alternating wins and losses.

Let's take a look at both teams, starting with the home team below:

Meet the Steelers

Pittsburgh has just looked bad through the first six games of the season. The team's running game has been non-existent, average just 61.0 rushing yards per game, above only the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers' passing game fares slightly better, at 277.6 passing yards per game on average.

However, with Le'Veon Bell back and getting more playing time, the running game could turn around. Bell was hurt for several games and the Steelers were forced to roll with multiple fill-in backs that couldn't get the job done. They've also played some deceptively-strong teams this season, with only the 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (then winless) looking particularly bad.

At the end of the day, if the Steelers are to win games, Ben Roethlisberger needs to do a better job of finding the end zone. He's thrown six touchdowns against five interceptions, and if his running game picks up he might just be able to change the fortunes of this team before it is too late.

Meet the Ravens

The Ravens won the Super Bowl last season, but they haven't looked like world-beaters this year. A loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 looks particularly bad on their record, though wins over Cleveland and Miami are actually impressive at this point.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is playing well, with 263.0 passing yards per game, good for No. 12 in the league, but the Ravens are almost as bad at running the football as Pittsburgh. They average just 72.7 rushing yards per game, which is insanely low given that the ground game is supposed to be a strength of this team. Coming in and expecting to dominate in the trenches and failing completely is an easy way to a .500 record.

Ray Rice is the biggest concern. He's being out-gained by Bernard Pierce slightly, though both have a paltry average of 2.8 yards per carry. The run blocking certainly isn't helping, but if Rice doesn't improve, the Ravens will go nowhere this season.

Local Takes: Steelers

The folks over at Behind The Steel Curtain have just one question: what's up with the injuries?

The Levi Brown era ended in pregame warm ups and David Johnson goes on IR just as he's blossoming into a solid number 2 NFL tight end. Worse yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers are now averaging one season-ending injury per game. What the hell is going on? Can anyone explain?

Local Takes: Ravens

Jason Butt of Baltimore Beatdown notes that the Ravens have struggled to run the ball, and airing it out might be the best policy going forward:

We can all debate which plays or coaching decisions cost this team the game Sunday. But here's your No. 1 culprit. If you can't gain positive yardage on first and second down with the run game, it doesn't matter what you do for the most part.

Those - including myself - that criticized the coaching staff for not running the ball against Buffalo have to at least be cognizant of the fact that without any offensive line changes, personnel wise or schematically, that airing the ball out more might be a direction the Ravens should move in.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Behind The Steel Curtain and Baltimore Beatdown, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@btsteelcurtain

@BMoreBeatdown

Prediction

Two of SB Nation's experts -- Ryan Van Bibber and Jason Chilton -- are picking the Ravens. The other three are picking the Steelers to earn their second win of the season.

Odds

The Ravens opened up as 1-point favorites on the road, but the lines have reversed in most books, with the Steelers being favored by a single point, according to OddsShark.

Next Week

The Steelers will hit the road to take on the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 27. The Ravens will take a bye week before taking on the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 3.

NFL (includes "Tomlin Daily Win video from 10/16)

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