Below are seven matchups or things to look for on Sunday as the Steelers take on the Baltimore Ravens.
Silverback And The Blindside – James Harrison showed up on the Friday injury report as questionable with a bicep injury, but all signs still point to him playing. Harrison very well could be lining up against Ravens rookie Michael Oher, who looks to line up at left offensive tackle for the third consecutive game in place of the injured Jared Gaither. Oher will be in charge of protecting the blindside of Joe Flacco. Harrison has 43 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles in the past six meetings with the Ravens.
Old Man Townsend – Deshea Townsend looks to start at left cornerback this week in place of the struggling William Gay. Gay will be the nickel corner on passing downs with Townsend covering the slot receiver in the nickel packages. Townsend likes to gamble and could be in line for the first Steelers interception by a cornerback if he gambles right on Sunday. Good play by Townsend could be the difference in the game.
Attacking Injured Ratbirds Secondary – The Steelers may be missing Troy Polamalu once again, but the Ravens are extremely thin in their secondary, especially if safety Ed Reed misses another game. The Ravens are also missing rookie Lardarius Webb who is now out for the season and Chris Carr will start in his place. Fabian Washington was also lost for the season a month ago and the Ravens secondary is pieced together with late free agent signings. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will certainly look to exploit the secondary with certain matchups and the Steelers should be able to move the ball through the air on the Ravens.
Rice Rice Baby – It is no secret that Ravens running back Ray Rice was the difference in the last game versus the Ravens. The Steelers did a poor job containing him on passing downs and can not let linebacker James Farrior to be singled up on Rice. The Steelers must get a defensive back to spy on Rice to help limit his effectiveness, especially on third downs.
3rd Downs On Both Sides – The Steelers need to do a better job at converting their own 3rd downs on offense and stopping the Ravens on defense on 3rd downs. This may be the most telling stat of the game on Sunday. Whoever does a better job converting these downs will likely win the game.
Turnovers Wanted – The Steelers have struggled at getting turnovers this year, especially turnovers at key points in the game. If the Steelers do not win the turnover stat on Sunday, they will not win the game. It is now or never for the final time for the defense.
Pressure Unibrow – Joe Flacco was must sacked, hurried and knocked down all day. Let him get comfortable in the pocket and he will pick the defense apart. The front 3 must get a better push on passing downs and corner blitzes will need to be disguised and mixed in often on passing downs. Flacco does not need to throw for 300 yards to win. He can throw for only 200 and still beat you. He must pay the price for standing in the pocket.