To be exact, the Steelers have 4 scores to settle with the Ravens. Four touchdowns. That was the margin of victory for the Ravens in the Week 1 meeting we all would like to forget. As much as we would like to bask in the glory of the win against the Patriots, Steeler Nation cannot forget the bigger picture. That picture is a scoreboard with the final score of 35-7 on it. Remember that stench? It’s back. It’s time to stop patting ourselves on the backs for handling Brady and Welker so well and start figuring out how the Steelers can redeem themselves from that Week 1 disaster.
It’s Ravens Week. You can smell it in the air. The smack talk is flying around, the pictures of ravens as road kill are circulating Twitter and Facebook, and Steeler Nation is collectively planning their Sunday routines in preparation for the Sunday night showdown. Until the Week 1 blowout, the last 5 meetings between these two teams were decided by 7 or fewer points. In the first meeting of the season the Steelers looked slow and unprepared and were outmatched in all 3 phases of the game by the Ravens. The Steelers are by far not the same team that turned the ball over 7 times and allowed Ray Rice 107 rushing yards. The Ravens certainly aren’t the same team either. After blowing out the Steelers the Ravens went on to lose to Tennessee and Jacksonville and had to post their largest comeback in team history to get past the Arizona Cardinals last week.
Beating the snot out of the Ravens is essential to the Steelers success for this season. Lose to them and the Steelers will be under the “Yeah, but” category for the rest of the year. Steeler Nation will hear “The Steelers beat the Patriots yeah, but they lost to the Ravens twice.” Ew, I don’t even want to think about that. The Steelers schedule has been unique so far in that the only divisional game played was that first meeting against the Ravens. There are still 2 games apiece against the Browns and the surprising Bungles before any team can be crowned the division champs. Getting redemption for the 35-7 loss isn’t just a want, it’s a need.
So how do the Steelers turn the tables and regain their rightful place as the undisputed top team in the AFC North? There are 3 Ratbirds that need to be stopped; Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. I’m not giving any credit to Flacco and Boldin because the Ravens have shown all season that the recipe to beating them is to stop Rice and force Flacco to throw the ball as best as his little mediocre arm possibly can. The Steelers have had their troubles stopping the run so far and with 3 linebackers possibly out (I know it’s crazy but I’m not counting Harrison and Woodley out until its official) that won’t be an easy task.
Arians and LeBeau have to maintain their strategy for last week of adapting to the game at hand for the Steelers to be effective against the Ravens. The same game plan used against the Patriots won’t work against the Ravens. The Patriots ranked 32nd against the pass, while the Ravens are ranked 3rd. The Ravens defense also has 16 turnovers to their credit, although 7 of those came from the Steelers. The Steelers defense has managed only 3 turnovers so far but has posted 2 safeties in the past 2 games. The Steelers offensive line is leaps and bounds improved over the first week, but stopping Ngata and Suggs from eating Ben alive is going to be the toughest test of just how improved this offensive line is.
The key to sending those Ratbirds back to Baltimore wondering what hit them will be winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. The O-line needs to protect Ben like their lives depend on it and Mendy, Redman, and Moore need to accumulate some yardage anyway they can. On the other side of the ball the Steelers got to Brady 3 times last week after not sacking him for their previous 2 meetings, in Week 1 Flacco wasn’t sacked until the 4th quarter. Using my mathematical extrapolation that means we owe Flacco 127 sacks in this game. I could be off by 1 or 2. Now I know that sacks don’t win games alone but it sure would be nice to see a whole lot of the grass of Heinz Field all over Flacco’s jersey by the end of the night. The Steelers defense needs to stop the run, you stop the run and you can get to the quarterback easier. Bonus is we know that if Ray Rice doesn’t get his touches on the ball Suggs is going to get all whinny like he did after the loss against Jacksonville and that’s just pure entertainment.
Steeler Nation knows it’s time for redemption. 35-7 just remember that. The players don’t need any additional motivation besides knowing that a win this week puts them squarely in the driver’s seat in the division and the rest of the conference. The fans want to see a beat down the likes of
which we will tell our children and grandchildren about for years to come. If the Steelers can hold strong against the Ratbirds defense and put Flacco on his back we will all go to bed very happy on Sunday night. Go Steelers!
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