Analysis of the offense, defense, special teams and intangibles heading into the Ravens' home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
RAVENS: Joe Flacco has put up solid numbers the past two weeks, completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing for 746 yards and four touchdowns. He hasn't been sacked in consecutive games. However, he's also tied for fourth in the league with four interceptions and he's struggled to get the team's secondary wide receivers involved. While Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown have struggled, Steve Smith Sr. has too often been a one-man show. He has 23 catches for 336 yards over past two weeks.
STEELERS: The Steelers enter the game with the third-ranked passing offense, but that's been with Ben Roethlisberger directing things. With Roethlisberger out with a knee injury, the Steelers will turn things over to veteran Michael Vick, who has started nine total games over the past three seasons and thrown eight touchdown passes and five interceptions during that span. Expect the Steelers to keep things simple for Vick and utilize quick passes and their array of weapons, led by Antonio Brown. (EDGE: STEELERS)
RAVENS: The team's lack of outside weapons and the play of the secondary were concerns going into the season, but the run game was supposed to be a strength. Yet, the Ravens rank 27th in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 72.7 yards per game. They also have only one rushing touchdown and have struggled in short-yardage situations. Justin Forsett is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and has only one run for 20 yards or longer. Lorenzo Taliaferro looked tentative last week.
STEELERS: When the Ravens beat the Steelers in a wild-card game in January, standout back Le'Veon Bell was sidelined with a knee injury. Bell is healthy now and in his return last week following a two-game suspension, he picked up 132 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. He's dangerous out of the backfield and a significant threat to end the Ravens' streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games. He's a quality No. 2. (EDGE: STEELERS)
RAVENS: This is the one area where the Ravens have been consistent and good. They have held the opposition to 84 rushing yards per game, which ranks eighth in the NFL. They also are allowing 3.4 yards per carry, better than all but three teams. A big reason why is nose tackle Brandon Williams, who had a team-high eight tackles, including two for losses, in last Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 consecutive games.
STEELERS: There were significant questions about the Pittsburgh defense, but this group has done just fine, holding the opposition to just over 87 rushing yards per game. They still haven't given up a rushing touchdown this season, one of four teams that can say that. Second-year inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is the Steelers' leading tackler, but he's dealing with a shoulder injury. Sean Spence is his replacement. Big nose tackle Steve McLendon gave Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah fits last year. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: Remember when the Ravens secondary was getting praised for its play against the Denver Broncos? In the past two weeks, the Ravens have given up 723 passing yards and six passing touchdowns. They now rank 29th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 291 yards per game. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Dean Pees has struggling cornerback Jimmy Smith shadow Antonio Brown all game. The defense needs more from Courtney Upshaw and Kendrick Lewis.
STEELERS: If there is a primary Pittsburgh weakness, it's their secondary. The pass rush — the Steelers have nine sacks — has taken some pressure off the back end and the combination of cornerbacks William Gay and Antwon Blake and safeties Mike Mitchell and Will Allen have stabilized somewhat after getting lit up for four touchdown passes by New England's Tom Brady in Week 1. The Steelers have intercepted Flacco just six times in 14 career regular-season matchups. (EDGE: STEELERS)
RAVENS: When Justin Tucker starts badly missing field goals, as he did on a 50-yard try last week, you know things aren't going well for the Ravens. It was Tucker's only miss in eight tries this season. Punter Sam Koch also had a tough day against the Bengals. It appears that Michael Campanaro has taken over the primary punt return duties from Steve Smith Sr. Campanaro gained 35 total yards on two punt returns last week. Ravens coverage teams continue to be solid.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh lost two kickers to injuries in training camp, prompting them to trade for longtime Jacksonville Jaguar Josh Scobee. Scobee has been shaky, missing two field goals in six attempts and one of his extra-point tries. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has opted to go for two-point conversions four times this season. Jordan Berry is Pittsburgh's first-year punter while Brown (punt) and Dri Archer (kick) handle return duties. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: Flacco made a startling admission this week when he questioned whether some Ravens believe that the team can win. The three late losses have surely shaken this group. The Ravens have struggled to overcome certain injuries and they've been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. The Steelers do tend to bring out the best in them, though. In the past five seasons, they are 4-3 at Heinz Field and 5-1 in games that Roethlisberger did not play.
STEELERS: Tomlin's coaching staff will have its hands full this week trying to make sure Vick is comfortable in the offense and not putting the ball in harm's way while also continuing to keep everybody involved. Tomlin doesn't spend a whole lot of time dwelling on injuries, so there's no reason to expect the Steelers to not be fully prepared. The Steelers have been called for 19 penalties in three games, but their discipline is always tested in this rivalry. (EDGE: STEELERS)
The Ravens would have had a chance to win this game even if Roethlisberger were playing. They've beaten the Steelers at full strength before, but obviously their outlook improves with Vick under center. Still, they've just not shown the ability to limit mistakes and put a complete game together, and those are things that you have to do to win on the road. Until the Ravens can close out a game, until their defense stops anybody late, it will be impossible to give them the benefit of the doubt, even against a backup quarterback. The Ravens will have to wait another week for their first win. STEELERS, 26-16
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Michael Vick
- Joe Flacco
- Mike Tomlin
- Antonio Brown
- Justin Tucker
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Marlon Brown
- Courtney Upshaw
- William Gay
- Sean Spence
- Mike Mitchell
- Antwon Blake
- Denver Broncos
- Jeremy Zuttah
- Brandon Williams (football, linebacker)
- Will D. Allen