The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at Heinz Field and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
Who Sacks Less? - Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has already been sacked 18 times so far this year in the five games that he's played while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked 19 in his first six. The Ravens defense, however, has 22 sacks on the season while the Steelers defense has a measly seven of them. Whichever quarterback is protected the best in this game could have numbers and we are likely to see a big sack/fumble in this game as well. Steelers second-year offensive linemen Kelvin Beachum will start again at left tackle and Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will certainly let us know if he and right tackle Marcus Gilbert able to hold up against premier pass rushers.
Up The Banged Up Gut - The Ravens will be without inside linebacker Josh Bynes in this game, but they could get back Jameel McClain this week. McClain hasn't played at all this season, so rookie Arthur Brown could see action alongside Daryl Smith as well. The Ravens have not been good against runs between the tackles so far this season, so that is exactly where the Steelers need to attack them with rookie running back Le'Veon Bell in this game. Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards last week on 23 carries against the Ravens and it included several big runs right up the gut.
Fry Rice - Ravens running back Ray Rice only has 197 yards on 71 carries this season, but he is still dangerous as receiver out of the backfield nonetheless. In fact, his 20 receptions ties him for second most on the team with tight end Dallas Clark. The Steelers will not be able to rely on containing him with a linebacker, so they must get into their sub package defense as often as possible in order to neutralize him on second and third downs.
No Happy Returns - The Steelers kick coverage units will be tested Sunday as the Ravens rank second in the league in punt return average and sixth in the league in kickoff return average. Tandon Doss and Jacoby Jones are both legitimate threats and the latter proved that last year in the first meeting between the two teams. Field position will be a premium in this game, so it's time that the Steelers special team units make a difference in a game.
Don't Let The Torrey Story Be About YAC - Of his 28 receptions so far this season, Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has registered five of them via passes thrown 21 or more yards past the line of scrimmage. We all know how Flacco likes to go deep in order to register an explosive play or a pass interference call and we can expect more of that on Sunday. Of his 568 yards receiving this season, Smith has registered 231 of them after the catch. That's an average of 8.25 yards after the catch if you are scoring at home.
Red Sevens From Seven - The Ravens defense is tied for best in the league when it comes to the red zone as they have only allowed touchdowns 25% of the time once the opposition enters it. Conversely, the Steelers offense is ranked 31st overall in red zone conversions with a 38.46% conversion rate. This really doesn't set up well for Roethlisberger and company heading into this game and if they come away with three's instead seven's, the Ravens will likely win.
Can Ben Go Yard? - Last week, the Steelers offense managed to register three explosive plays of 20 yards or more against a very good New York Jets defense. Sunday, they will face a Ravens defense that has given up 24 passing plays of 20 yards or more already this season. That's a four a game average and the Steelers offense better exceed that average if they are going to win this game. Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo are all susceptible to the big play.