Know Thy Enemy: A Closer Look at the Ravens


Every week, I will be contacting the editor of the FanSided team blog the Steelers are playing that Sunday.  This week I wrote five questions to Riley Babcock, editor of the Ravens blog Ebony Bird.  Check out what he has to say after the jump, and be sure to visit his site and let him know what you think about what he has to say…. especially about the Polamalu and Reed debate.  I will also be answering five questions from him – so be sure to check out what’s on Ravens fans’ minds these days and how I respond.

1. I wrote an article earlier in the week about the Ravens boosting the offensive roster with a bunch of offseason acquisitions.  How do you feel these additions have helped the offense?  Do you see a significant jump in point totals or just a more dominant offense that can control possession and the clock more effectively?

"I think these additions will help the offense greatly. Vonta Leach is a guy that I’m very excited about. Although the O-Line remains a problem, I expect him to do big things for the running game and help Ray Rice become one of the league’s premier rushers.The Ravens were a good offensive team last year but were unable to close games and run the ball effectively. I believe the additions this offseason will aide the Ravens in controlling the clock more effectively. The new tools that the Ravens have added should make them a harder team to defend."

2. Joe Flacco gets a lot of crap from our end here on Steelers Nation, and I suspect he gets some from his own fans.  How do you feel his improvement has come along since the divisional playoffs?  Does he finally get the monkey off his back and beat the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger plays – either this Sunday or later on in the season?

"I don’t like Joe Flacco as much as the average Ravens fan. I feel like we’ve been waiting for him to “take the next step” for way to long, but what I saw from him in preseason was encouraging. And I’m not talking about his play, but rather his leadership. He seemed to take control of the offense and looked more like a leader.As for the Steelers, the Ravens’ success rides on his shoulders. For some unknown reason, he just can’t beat them. I’d like to think that he finally does get the monkey off his back but he hasn’t shown me anything for me to think that. Given that this matchup is in week 1, I have nothing to base my decision off of. I’d have to see more to know for sure but we’ll find out on Sunday."

3. I have to ask – who’s the better safety, Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed?

"I not only respect Troy Polamalu but I like him as a person and player. I love what he does for the community and I think he is a respectful and kind person that I have nothing bad to say about. But I think it’s an easy decision that Ed Reed is the better safety. Now I know that any Steeler fans reading this are rolling their eyes and saying “Here’s another biased Ravens fan” but I think that this is an easy decision based on a couple of factors. To start, the turnover battle is one of the most, if not the most, important statistic in football. If you win the turnover battle, you’ll most likely win the game and Ed Reed has twice as many interceptions as Troy Polamalu. But he doesn’t just get interceptions, he returns them for 40, 50, 60 yards for touchdowns. You also can’t overlook what he does on special teams. He’s a great returner and has blocked his share of punts over his career.Troy and Ed are both incredible players with instincts like no other. They play completely differently and I’d be happy with either one on my team. Troy is so important to the Steelers because Dick LeBeau uses him in so many different ways which allows him to make plays all over the field. Give me either but if I had to pick one, it’d be Reed."

4. The acquisition of Lee Evans seems like either he or Boldin could have a huge statistical season?  Who will have the biggest impact on the team this season (not just those two)?  Anyone ‘breaking out?’

"I love the Lee Evans pickup. I think he is the guy the Ravens have been looking for this whole time. I see both Evans and Boldin having a similar season statistically with maybe Boldin having the edge.As for any breakout players, It’s got to be Ray Rice. He had an off year last year but I look for the Ravens to reestablish the running game this year."

5. What’s the biggest thing the Steelers need to plan for heading into Sunday’s game?

"I think the Steelers need to be aware and ready of the the new additions on offense. The receiving corp is completely different besides Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap will no longer be Flacco’s safety blanket. The Ravens have also upgraded their secondary. The only person you’ll recognize is Ed Reed and passing won’t be as easy as the corners look better than last year."

So there you have it.  Some pretty honest moments from Riley with his thoughts about Flacco.  The pressure certainly seems to be on Flacco this season to beat the Steelers.  I think that Riley misses the mark with his Reed argument (especially when he says Reed is a great special teams player – wasn’t exactly the question at hand), and in actuality helps defend Polamalu when he says that LeBeau ‘uses him in so many different ways which allows him to make plays all over the field.’  Does the Ravens build their defense around a single player like that? No.

I’ll probably have a follow session with Riley after the game to get his reactions on the outcome and things that developed over the course of four quarters.  Go Steelers!