Nickel Package: Five Things to Watch in Ravens vs. Steelers
As the Ravens (7-2) square off with the Steelers (6-3) in another AFC North showdown Sunday night at Heinz Field, here's a checklist of key things and people to keep an eye on.
-- Aaron Wilson
-- Aaron Wilson
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1. Will Terrell Suggs reprise his Steeler Killer role?
This would be a good time for Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to regain his NFL Defensive Player of the Year form, and reprise his usual rendition as the scourge of the Steelers' offense.
Even when elusive Steelers starter Ben Roethlisberger was under center, Suggs haunted the Steelers with 8 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles over the past two seasons. He has 82 tackles, two interceptions, 13 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries with six pass deflections in 17 career games against Pittsburgh.
He has sacked Roethlisberger 15 1/2 times, including the playoffs -- more than any other NFL defender -- with 18 1/2 sacks against Pittsburgh overall, including the postseason.
Now that Suggs is having a not unexpected quiet return following a partial tear of his right Achilles tendon in late April, the defending AFC North champions need him to start making some more noise by crashing into Steelers immobile pocket passer and Roethlisberger replacement Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich definitely can't run away from Suggs, but can Suggs get around Steelers rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams?
Suggs has 10 tackles, one sack and three pass deflections in three games this season.
Lately, he's been just trying to bat down passes whenever he's stonewalled by pass rushers.
This is a prime game for Suggs to break out, but the question is whether his fast-twitch explosiveness will return this season or if that's more of a next-season goal.
Meanwhile, Suggs has gamely played the run with a physical approach to the game as he throws aside blockers.
The Ravens have only 16 sacks in nine games and are on pace to finish with 28 sacks for the season.
They need Suggs to start getting to the quarterback on a regular basis. Otherwise, opposing quarterbacks could pick apart an injury-riddled secondary.