Would you want it any other way as a Steelers fan? A week 16 matchup that means a ton to both teams playoff wise. The Ravens are currently on the inside looking out, while the Steelers are on the outside looking in. At the end of the day on Sunday, the Steelers could have their destiny in their own hands with a win against Baltimore and several other key games falling their way.
The Steelers once again will be without safety Troy Polamalu, while the Ravens will likely be minus safety Ed Reed. The Ravens secondary limps in also without cornerback Lardarius Webb, who has been lost for the season. The Steelers will try to attack a patch worked Ravens secondary through the air, while the Ravens will look to release all purpose running back Ray Rice on the Steelers defense. Rice had 155 yards combined in the week 12 meeting between the two teams in which the Ravens won in overtime. In that game, third string quarterback Dennis Dixon started for the injured Ben Roethlisberger and managed to keep the game close. This time around, Roethlisberger is healthy and coming off of his best performance of his career against the Packers.
If the Steelers want to win this game, they must continue doing what they have been doing right on offense, while the defense needs to find a way not to collapse in the 4th quarter. Linebacker James Harrison is a game time decision, but should play. His effectiveness could be limited with his recent bicep injury though. Also on defense, cornerback Deshea Townsend will start in place of William Gay at left cornerback. Gay has been targeted and torched over the last several weeks, so the change is indeed needed. Gay will continue to play in nickel defense formations as the extra cornerback on passing downs. He needs to be up for the task and the role, regardless. Linebacker James Farrior needs to reach deep as well. The aging linebacker is showing his age and has been missing key tackles, especially late in games. The Steelers defense has not forced a turnover in the last 3 games and that has to change today if the Steelers want to win.
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall needs to keep up his effectiveness as an all purpose back as well. Mendenhall contributed 73 reception yards last week versus Green Bay and will likely see his role in the passing game continue this week as well. The Steelers offense needs to take advantage of what the Ravens give them defensively as the running game should not be abandoned too early. The Ravens will look to hide their injured secondary, so the opportunity to run should be there all day as well.
Two weeks ago, it looked as if the Steelers season was over. Several things have gone their way since then and the Steelers must win today so they can continue to watch the scoreboard for more help across the league. At the end of Sunday, the Steelers very well could control their own destiny for the post season, but it starts with taking care of Baltimore first. Lose and the season is definitely over. I think the Steelers will rise to the occasion in their final home game of the season. This one will be close, but the Steelers will find a way to win this one.
Prediction: Steelers 24 Ravens 20