November 12, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood (96) reacts after a defensive stop against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 16-13 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
When my dad and I bought tickets for this weekend’s Steelers-Ravens contest, we knew it wasn’t guaranteed that we would be going home happy. With recent news of Big Ben’s injury, it sure seems as if I’m marching towards a massacre. However, there is absolutely no guarantee the Ravens can pull this one out even against a backup quarterback. Here are the three biggest reasons why.
1) Their Own Injuries
As any Ravens fan will remind you, a Ravens win won’t come with an asterix because of the numerous and important injuries Baltimore has had to deal with. In fact, some would argue that the Ravens are in a worse position than the Steelers. Haloti Ngata and Torrey Smith are still questionable and even though they will more than likely suit up, there is no way they will be 100%. Jimmy Smith hasn’t participated in practice yet this week and is legitimately questionable. Suggs hasn’t impressed me yet as he still recovers from his achilles injury that is hampering his best assest: explosiveness off the snap. Oh, and that guy Ray Lewis is done for the year too. So while the Steelers are coming in battered, Baltimore has some serious holes on their defensive unit.
2) Steelers Can Still Run The Ball
One of the trademarked features of a Steelers Ravens game is the inability for both sides to run the ball effectively. After reading the above, you see that for the Steelers that task just got monumentally easier. What’s worse for Baltimore is that their run defense was still average at best when the team was healthy. The interior of Pouncey, Colon and Foster may still have to deal with Ngata but there won’t be Lewis to account for in the box. That is a huge relief and expect the Steelers to challenge that interior early before even attempting to bounce the ball outside. If the Steelers running game performs like it did before the Kansas City game, they will be able to successfully grind out clock and yards against the less than stellar Ravens defense.
3) Ravens Offensive Strategy Is Bizzare
You would think that with Ray Rice being as successful as he is even when he is touching the ball 65%-70% of the time you’d still do it, right? Well Baltimore has had moments this season where they don’t give the ball to Rice, even if he’s successful. Consider: in their loss against Philly, Rice was averaging over 5 yards a carry…and Flacco threw the ball 43 times. Against Houston, Rice average 4.6 yards a carry…and got 12 carries. Flacco threw 43 times again. I understand the want for a balanced offense, but when Ray Rice is winning you games and Joe Flacco is losing them, you give the ball to Rice. In their last two games against pretty mediocre teams, the Ravens have stalled in their rushing game. If the Steelers defense can hold off Rice early Harbaugh will more than likely trust Flacco to win the game for the Ravens. That’s the best recipe for a Steelers win.