The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
Taylor Made? – Ike Taylor is coming off of his worst two games of the season. In the last two weeks he has given up 14 catches for 328 yard and three touchdowns when targeted in coverage. Thursday night against the Ravens, Taylor will more than likely be stuck on wide receiver Torrey Smith for most of the game. Back in Week 7, Taylor held Smith to only two receptions for 57 yards. However, one of those catches was good for 41 yards. If Taylor allows Smith to go over 100 yards in this game, the Steelers will more than likely lose.
More Double D – In the last meeting between these two teams, Steelers right guard David DeCastro had the best game of his young career. However, the Ravens were banged up headed into that game, but that won’t be the case this time around. DeCastro really made an impact when he was able to get off of his first combo block and out to the second level. The Ravens weakness against the run is up the middle, so the Stanford product must have another great game if the Steelers want to establish any sort of run threat.
Wildcat Playing Possum? – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t seem too happy with the heavy use of the Wildcat last week against the New York Jets and that would lead you to believe that the Steelers won’t see much of Thursday night. Flacco really looked disinterested lined up wide outside last week and because of that, this week would be the perfect opportunity to use some sort of double pass or trick play with Tyrod Taylor throwing to Flacco. I’m not going to guarantee that this will happen, but I smell a rat. Or in this case, a rat bird. Remember, you heard it here first if it happens.
Worilds Trifecta – With LaMarr Woodley likely out again, Jason Worilds is expected to make his third straight start at left outside linebacker. Worilds has played extremely well in the last two games and Thursday night he will be going against right tackle Michael Oher, who has already given up six sacks and 22 hurries so far this season. Flacco has already been sacked 37 times so far this season and that equals the amount of times that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been on his back this year. Worilds can make himself some more money should he take over this game and Oher is prime for the picking.
Need More Explosiveness – The Steelers offense has produced 51 explosive plays so far this season, but the last time they played the Ravens they only had one play of 20 yards or more. That’s probably not going to cut it this time around. The Ravens defense has only given up 36 explosive plays all season, but 15 of those were of the double explosive variety. The TOX stat will rule this game, so the Steelers need to get yardage in chunks and through the air.
You Can Call Him Al – In all likelihood, Al Woods will get the start at nose tackle in place of the injured Steve McLendon. While Woods did have a good showing last week against the Cleveland Browns, the less he is needed on the field, the better. In the last meeting against the Ravens, McLendon was only the field for 17 plays as the Ravens used a lot of three wide receiver packages. The Steelers defense countered that with their quarters package and all went well.
Crack The Tough Red Zone Nut – The Ravens defense has been solid this season in the red zone as they have only allowed nine touchdowns in 29 trips (31%) heading into this game. The Steelers offense, on the other hand, comes into this game ranked 31st in the league in red zone scoring. It’s a tall task, but they must find a way to crack the nut in this game. Going one for three like they did back in Week 7 just won’t be good enough to win this time around.