Ravens vs. Steelers scouting report

Analysis of the offense, defense, special teams and intangibles when the Ravens host the Steelers Sunday at 1 p.m.



RAVENS: Jimmy Clausen has acquitted himself well as the starter given the circumstances, but like Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub before him, he's been unable to avoid back-breaking mistakes. The Ravens have thrown 19 interceptions this year, the second most in the NFL, and four of them have been returned for touchdowns. Chris Givens' struggles should lead to more opportunities for Jeremy Butler. Quarterback Ryan Mallett will probably get a shot this year, but Sunday might be a week too early.

STEELERS: Ben Roethlisberger, who missed the first matchup with the Ravens because of a knee injury, has been on a tear. Over the past six games, he's averaged 365.8 passing yards per game and thrown 13 touchdown passes. Antonio Brown is coming off a 16-catch, 189-yard and two-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos. He leads the NFL with 1,586 receiving yards. Brown and fellow receivers Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant have combined for 19 touchdown receptions. (EDGE: STEELERS)



RAVENS: Of all the Ravens' 2015 shortcomings, their failure to run the football has gotten the least amount of attention, but that probably shouldn't be the case. The Ravens averaged 126.2 rushing yards per game last year. This season, they average just 92.7 on the NFL's sixth fewest rushing attempts. Starting in place of an injured Justin Forsett, Buck Allen has lost a fumble in back-to-back games but coach John Harbaugh said he'll go back to the rookie after benching him last week.

STEELERS: The Steelers have gotten by just fine without the playmaking ability of Le'Veon Bell, one of the NFL's top backs. Veteran DeAngelo Williams has stepped in for an injured Bell and he has 799 rushing yards despite starting just eight games. He has a shot at his first 1,000-yard season since 2009. Former Raven Fitzgerald Toussaint is one of Williams' backups. The Steelers average 113.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks 12th in the NFL. Williams also has 32 receptions. (EDGE: STEELERS)


RAVENS: Other than Charcandrick West's 38-yard first-quarter touchdown run last week, the Ravens contained the Kansas City Chiefs' highly-ranked rushing attack. On his other 15 carries, West gained 38 yards total. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley had one of his better games of the year with nine tackles, including two for a loss. The Ravens allowed a season high 167 rushing yards to the Steelers in Week 4, but that was with Mike Vick under center and Le'Veon Bell in the backfield.

STEELERS: For the third straight week, the Ravens will face a top 10 rushing defense. The Steelers are allowing just 89.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks fifth in the NFL. They've also surrendered just five rushing touchdowns. The Ravens gouged the Steelers for 191 rushing yards in the October matchup. That's the most Pittsburgh has allowed this season. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has a team-leading 102 tackles. Nose tackle Steve McLendon has played really well against the Ravens. (EDGE: STEELERS)


RAVENS: Alex Smith's 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin last week was the 28th allowed by the Ravens this season, which eclipsed a franchise record. The Ravens' secondary hasn't held up all season against quality quarterbacks and talented receivers, and Pittsburgh has among the best of both. The Ravens efforts to match up will be further complicated if Jimmy Smith can't play because of a hamstring injury. Rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil has six sacks and is on pace for his fewest since 2008.


STEELERS: The Steelers shut out the Broncos in the second half of last Sunday's comeback victory, a significant achievement for a much-maligned pass defense. Pittsburgh is allowing 279.1 passing yards per game, the second most in the NFL. But the Steelers are also tied for sixth in the NFL in interceptions (15) and tied for fourth in sacks (40). Defensive end Cameron Heyward has seven sacks and hurt the Ravens in the first meeting. Coach Mike Tomlin continues to rotate his defensive backs. (EDGE: EVEN)


RAVENS: Justin Tucker provided one of the Ravens' highlights of the season with his 52-yard, game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Steelers on Oct. 1. It's one of two field goals of 50 yards or more that he's made this season. Punter Sam Koch continues to lead the league in net punting average and has only three touchbacks. Kaelin Clay would lead the league with a 14.4-yard average per punt return if he had enough returns to qualify.

STEELERS: Kicker Chris Boswell replaced Josh Scobee, who was let go after missing two late field-goal attempts against the Ravens in October, and has stabilized the Steelers kicking game. He's made 26 of 28 field-goal attempts and all but one of his 23 extra-point attempts. Pittsburgh has gone for two-point conversions more than any team in the league. The Steelers have been using Brown and Wheaton on returns after former Raven Jacoby Jones fumbled away his opportunity. (EDGE: RAVENS)


RAVENS: Even in getting drubbed on their home field by a combined score of 69-20 over the past two weeks, the Ravens haven't lacked in effort. They simply don't have enough healthy talent to match up against the AFC's top teams. They've forced 11 turnovers all year. Their franchise-low is 16. They also remain one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. The Ravens will face their biggest rival Sunday with as many as eight starters out with injuries.


STEELERS: At midseason, the Steelers were 4-4 and in danger of falling out of the AFC playoff picture. However, they've since won five of their past six games, scoring 30 points or more in all of them. In the process, they've convinced many pundits that they are the New England Patriots' biggest threat in getting back to the Super Bowl. With a win Sunday and a New York Jets loss to the Patriots, Pittsburgh will clinch an AFC wild-card spot. The Steelers are one of the league's least-penalized teams. (EDGE: STEELERS)


The "throw out the records because it's a rivalry game" narrative is all well and good, and several Ravens mentioned it this week. But the Ravens have beaten the Steelers in four of the past five meetings because they had guys step up and make plays at key moments. The 2015 Ravens, however, barely have any playmakers left. The Steelers, meanwhile, are overflowing with them. Facing one of the NFL's hottest teams and likely doing it in front of many Steelers fans, this has the potential to get very ugly for the home team at M&T Bank Stadium. STEELERS, 35-10