Smash mouth football at its best. Ravens and Steelers, two divisional rivals, two of the best defenses in the NFL slugging it out at Heinz Field on Saturday, January 15th. Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense go into Pittsburg with the same regular season record at 12-4. The Ravens dominated the Chiefs in the opening round of the playoffs 30-7. The Steelers had a bye and their last two regular season games were blowouts. They beat the Panthers with ease and then crushed the Browns 41-9. They rested some of their starters in the second half of the Browns game. Their injured players have had rest some of the players are Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Bryan McFadden. Troy Polamalu has been battling a Achilles tendon injury for a little over a month. He has had plenty to rest, so he will be as healthy as possible for Sunday. Mike Tomlin said that he will practice later in the week so he can stay as well rested as possible. Aaron Smith and McFadden have been battling injuries but are both expected to play on Saturday. On the other hand, the Ravens played last week, so they didn’t have any time off. In the Chiefs game some Ravens were getting up slowly and limping around. One player was Matt Birk, he was getting up very slow every time he was on the ground. He played the whole game, so he will play on Saturday but he will need to be well rested so he can stop the Steelers pass rush. Haloti Ngata has been battling a sprained knee for the last couple of weeks, he has played each week, but he will be a big factor in the game. He Is the key for the Ravens stopping Rashard Mendenhall from having a big day. This will be a hard hitting game, and there are probably going to be some injuries. The players will play through it, so they can get to the AFC Championship.
The Ravens defense hasn’t beaten Ben Roethlisberger in the last five years. The last time the Ravens played the Steelers, Haloti Ngata broke his nose in the first series. Big Ben finished the game and led them to victory with less than two minutes to play. Big Ben is the toughest quarterback to bring down in the NFL and the Ravens know that. Terrell Suggs will be a key player in Saturday’s game, and he has played against Big Ben many times in his career. He knows that he needs to wrap Ben up and not let him escape. Big Ben will need his receivers to get open quick, because the Ravens pass rush does well in getting to him. Mike Wallace is a very good wide receiver; he has great speed and hands. He likes to run deep and Ben is great at putting the ball where only he can get it. Hines Ward is a veteran wide receiver who always seems to do well against the Ravens. He is a very good route runner, who finds the holes in the defense. The Steelers are very good at running the football. Rashard Mendenhall is a very physical runner and the Steelers offensive line does a great job at giving him holes to run. The Steelers offense revolves around Big Ben making plays out of nothing, but if the Ravens can keep him in the pocket, then they will have a chance to stop the big plays. The Ravens defense will have their hands full in this game with trying to stop the run and the pass. Generally the Ravens are good at stopping the run, but versus the Chiefs Jamaal Charles had 9 attempts for 82 yards. In the second half he was held to 2 carries for -5 yards. The Ravens made the adjustment and stopped Charles. Charles is a back who likes to get to the outside, while Mendenhall is a between the tackle runner. The Ravens defense will need to fill up the holes fast or get good penetration into the backfield. Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman, and teams have to double team him or he can get into the backfield. The Ravens secondary had trouble tackling Charles, and if they want to stop the run they will need to tackle Mendenhall from the waist down. Mike Wallace will likely be covered by Chris Carr with Ed Reed helping over the top to prevent the big play. Hines Ward will be covered by Josh Wilson who will need to physical in order to stop Ward. Ward is a very physical receiver and is considered to be very cheap; Wilson will need to keep composure along with the rest of the Ravens defense so they don’t give the Steelers extra downs.
The Ravens offense will have a tough task ahead of them since the Steelers defense is one of the best in the NFL. They are very good at getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. The Ravens offense line has had trouble this year protecting Flacco. The Chiefs had 4 sacks and the Steelers have rushers like James Harrison who is a great defensive end. Michael Oher will have his hands full all day and for the Ravens to win they need Oher to keep Harrison off of his quarterback. The Ravens offense likes to run to set up the pass but against the Steelers they have trouble running the ball. Joe Flacco will need to have a good game just like versus Kansas City. The receivers will need to get open so Flacco can get the ball out quickly. Anquan Boldin had a good game versus the Chiefs with 5 receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. He is a physical receiver, so this is his kind of game. Ray Rice will need to catch balls out of the backfield if the receivers are covered. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will need to run the ball well in order for the offense to o well. If they run well then that opens up the play action and Joe Flacco is very good when he uses play action. Joe Flacco will need to spot Troy Polamalu on each play so he doesn’t make big plays. Polamalu is the reason that the Steelers won in Week 13, so he will likely be the difference in this game to.
Prediction: 16-13 Steelers
The last 2 meetings between the Steelers and Ravens have been decided by 3 points. I think that that will remain the same. This game will come down to the last couple of plays just like the other games. Big Ben will likely drive the Steelers down the field with 2 minutes or less to go and get them in field goal range. The Steelers will go onto the AFC Championship and lose to either team because they will be so banged up.