Having your #3 quarterback make his 1st career start on the road versus a division rival is not usually a recipe for success. Such will be the case for the Steelers as they visit the Ravens on Sunday night. Dennis Dixon, the Steelers 2008 5th round draft pick, will start with starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sidelined with post concussion headaches.
For the Steelers to win this game, they will need to be near perfect in all facets of the game. On offense, the Steelers will look to run Rashard Mendenhall early and often and create manageable 3rd down distances for Dixon. Look for Dixon to be moved out of the pocket where he can utilize his running ability, should he not wish to force the ball into coverages. Some Wildcat formations would not be surprising as well. The passing game will also look to attack the middle part of the field to keep everything in front and center for Dixon. A few quick slant routes could be used to slow the Ravens pass rush. Mostly the offense will rely on the running ability of both Mendenhall and the offensive line.
On defense, the Steelers need to account for running back Ray Rice. Rice is dangerous as a pass receiver as well and must be accounted for by a linebacker or safety. Shutting down the running game and forcing the Ravens into predictable downs will be huge. The Steelers also need to force turnovers to shorten the field for the offense. They want Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to force the ball into coverages. Look also for more blitzes as the Steelers want to gamble more this week. With Troy Polamalu still sidelined with a PCL injury, Tyrone Carter has to step up his play at strong safety. Cornerback Ike Taylor must take veteran Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason completely out of the game. A big game by Mason will mean the Ravens win.
Special teams have been a problem all season for the Steelers and thos problems must come to a screeching halt on Sunday night. Kick coverages must be perfect as the Steelers only chance to win is a low scoring game. Both Daniel Sepulveda and Jeff Reed must make every punt and field goal attempt count. Field position could play a huge role in the game.
In closing, Dixon is the number three quarterback for a reason. Making a first start on the road, on natiional television and against the Ravens is a tough chore. The Steelers need to play the perfect game, something they have not done all season. The cards are stacked too high against them and I just can\’t see them winning this one.
Prediction: Ravens 19 Steelers 10