Ravens-Steelers Scouting Report

RAVENS PASSING GAME: As much as he's struggled against the Cincinnati Bengals, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has flourished in recent years against the Steelers, throwing eight touchdown passes and just one interception in his past seven games against them. Flacco threw the ball 62 times Sunday. That's certainly not the recipe offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak wants to rely on. Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta both had big games against the Bengals, but Ravens receivers dropped eight passes.

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STEELERS PASSING GAME: Ben Roethlisberger reported to camp leaner and energized by a young receiving group that includes Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown. However, Roethlisberger's go-to target remains Antonio Brown, who caught five balls for 116 yards and a touchdown in the opener. Brown set Pittsburgh's single-season receiving record last season with 110 catches for 1,499 yards. Roethlisberger's improvisational skills will challenge the Ravens secondary. He's 9-5 all-time against the Ravens.

EDGE: STEELERS

RAVENS RUNNING GAME: Coach John Harbaugh has been noncommittal about who will start at running back after he benched presumed starter Bernard Pierce on Sunday following his second-quarter fumble. Justin Forsett came in and rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro wasn't a part of the game plan, but that figures to change this week. It's likely that the Ravens will use all three backs and go with the hot hand against a team that struggled against the run in Week 1.

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STEELERS RUNNING GAME: For all of Roethlisberger's exploits on Sunday, Le'Veon Bell, a second-year back, was a difference-maker. He rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown and caught six balls for 88 yards. In two games against the Ravens last year, Bell rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown and caught eight passes for 69 yards. As a New England Patriot, LeGarrette Blount scored two touchdowns against the Ravens last year. The Steelers will likely lean on both, but Bell is their workhorse.

EDGE: STEELERS

RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: This group will have its hands full as both of the Steelers' backs, Bell and Blount, hurt them last year. The Ravens were pretty stout on run defense Sunday, holding the Bengals to 79 yards on 26 carries. That was the sixth-best performance against the run in Week 1. A key this week will be getting multiple defenders to the ball. Bell and Blount are both big backs who don't go down easily.

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STEELERS RUSH DEFENSE: If the Steelers showed a major vulnerability last week, it was with their run defense. They were gouged by the Browns for 183 yards with rookie Terrance West (Towson, Northwestern) gaining 100 yards on just 16 touches. Cleveland consistently found traction up the middle, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. First-round pick Ryan Shazier started at inside linebacker Sunday and made six tackles in his debut. Steelers safeties Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu are active in run support.

EDGE: RAVENS

RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The secondary had a key breakdown against the Bengals on A.J. Green's game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass, but otherwise, the group was solid. Safety Matt Elam had one of the better games of his young career. Against Roethlisberger, the Ravens badly need to find their pass rush, which was nonexistent against the Bengals. Terrell Suggs, who has just one sack in his past nine games dating to last year, has 161/2 career sacks on Roethlisberger. Lardarius Webb should return.

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STEELERS PASS DEFENSE: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau loves to dial up blitzes and get after quarterbacks. Pittsburgh had three sacks last week, one each by Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward. They are not afraid to leave their two starting corners — Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor — on an island. Taylor has had some memorable duels with Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith in the past. Polamalu has made some huge plays in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.

EDGE: STEELERS

RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: It was a rocky debut for the Ravens' special teams units. Justin Tucker missed a 55-yard field-goal attempt, Sam Koch had an average day punting, returner Jacoby Jones struggled with his decision-making and ball-handling, and the coverage units allowed a 45-yard punt return to Adam Jones. Kamar Aiken contributed to the mess with a 15-yard personal foul on a kickoff. Tucker has six-career game-winning field goals, a statistic to remember in a rivalry dominated by close games.

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STEELERS SPECIAL TEAMS: Shaun Suisham, who missed just two of 32 field-goal attempts last season, picked up where he left off by converting a 41-yarder as time expired to beat the Browns. Suisham has hit 22 straight field goals between 40 and 49 yards, including a 42-yarder that beat the Ravens last season at Heinz Field. Brown, whose leaping karate kick of Browns punter Spencer Lanning made all the highlight shows, is one of the game's most dangerous return men, and he's hurt the Ravens in the past.

EDGE: RAVENS

RAVENS INTANGIBLES: It's been a difficult couple of days for the Ravens, who lost their opener to a divisional rival and then dealt with the Ray Rice fallout, all while preparing for the quick turnaround. The Ravens have been strong at home under Harbaugh, but they are just 3-3 against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium since 2008. Ten of the Ravens' past 12 games against the Steelers have been decided by three points or fewer, so the defense's fourth-quarter struggles don't bode well.

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STEELERS INTANGIBLES: Mike Tomlin's Steelers are one of the few NFL teams that have had any success in Baltimore. Under Tomlin, the Steelers are 4-4 at M&T Bank Stadium. They are also 21-13 in prime-time games with him as their head coach, and 30-13 against AFC North foes. Pittsburgh has won seven of its past 10 games against division teams. Road teams have historically struggled on Thursday nights, but the Steelers will have no problem getting up for the Ravens.

EDGE: EVEN

PREDICTION: The talk heading into the game has been all about Rice, not the Steelers, but I have little doubt that the Ravens will be ready to play. But there were some concerning signs in their opener, and it would be far too optimistic to think that the Ravens will have fixed them in, effectively, two days of practice. Flacco is still trying to get fully comfortable with running the offense, and the defense needs to discover a killer instinct. Both will eventually happen, but not soon enough for the Ravens to upend their biggest rivals.

Steelers, 23-20

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