Scouting report for Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Joe Flacco played one of his worst games of the season in the team’s 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers, completing just 22 of 39 passes and throwing two interceptions. Flacco is down to 6.6 yards per attempt, better than last season but 30th in the league. He struggles when opponents bottle up his top deep threat, John Brown, as the Panthers did Sunday. None of the team’s receivers stepped forward in the blowout loss, as Willie Snead IV caught five passes on 11 targets and Michael Crabtree caught just three for 31 yards. The Ravens could be forced to play without one of their best pass blockers if Ronnie Stanley is sidelined by an ankle injury he suffered against Carolina.

STEELERS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had one of his worst games of the season in Week 4 against the Ravens, completing just 27 of 47 passes and throwing an interception. But his overall production has been in line with his career norms. All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has raised his game, with five touchdown catches during Pittsburgh’s current three-game winning streak. JuJu Smith-Schuster has matched Brown’s 46 receptions and leads the team with 594 receiving yards. Tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald have combined to average more than 14 yards on 42 receptions and will pose a major threat to the middle of the Ravens’ defense.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens finally improved their efficiency against Carolina, averaging 5.6 yards on 18 carries. But a blown blocking assignment led to a damaging fumble by Alex Collins, his third of the season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson broke a 17-yard run against the Panthers and has established himself as a key option in short-yardage situations. He carried four times for 17 yards in the Week 4 win against Pittsburgh. The Ravens still rank second to last in the league with an average of 3.6 yards per carry, and their fill-in offensive linemen — Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman and Hroniss Grasu — have all graded poorly as run blockers, according to Pro Football Focus.

STEELERS RUNNING GAME: This is where the Steelers have improved most since Week 4, despite the continued absence of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. The Ravens held second-year back James Conner to 19 yards on nine carries in Week 4, but Conner has averaged 122 yards a game since then and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. Ravens coaches have said their rivals are back to playing “Steeler football” with a greater emphasis on the run.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens rank seventh in the league in fewest yards allowed per carry, but their performance has slipped the past two weeks as opponents have hit them with creative running plays. The Steelers don’t have a mobile quarterback akin to Cam Newton of the Panthers or Saints backup Taysom Hill. But the improving Conner could pose a significant problem, especially if Ravens middle linebacker C.J. Mosley is hampered by a thigh injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday. The defense continues to shine up front, with Michael Pierce, Brent Urban and Brandon Williams grading as excellent run defenders, according to Pro Football Focus.

STEELERS RUSH DEFENSE: The Steelers are solid here, ranking sixth in the league in fewest yards allowed per game and 10th in fewest yards allowed per carry. They held the Ravens to 96 yards on 30 carries in Week 4 and have not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 100 yards since Week 2. Pittsburgh’s best individual run defenders are linebacker Jon Bostic, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens shut down Roethlisberger in the second half in Pittsburgh and still rank second in the league in fewest passing yards allowed per game. But their secondary has been more vulnerable the last two weeks, since cornerback Marlon Humphrey went out with a thigh injury. Both Newton and Saints quarterback Drew Brees gouged the Ravens in the middle of the field, and Roethlisberger has picked on them there in the past. Humphrey did return to practice on Thursday.

STEELERS PASS DEFENSE: Opponents threw on the Steelers at will early in the season, but Ravens coaches noted Pittsburgh’s improvement at preventing big plays. The Steelers are tied for second in the league (behind the Ravens) with 24 sacks, led by the inside-outside duo of defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and linebacker T.J. Watt. Mike Hilton has stepped forward at slot cornerback, and Joe Haden provides solid coverage on the outside. But the Steelers still allow the ninth most passing yards per game in the NFL.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Sam Koch ranks fourth in the NFL with 18 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and eighth with a net average of 41 yards. Justin Tucker made all three of his extra-point attempts against the Panthers after he missed for the first time in his career against the Saints. Chris Moore broke loose with a 39-yard kick return against Carolina, and Cyrus Jones added a 23-yard punt return.

STEELERS SPECIAL TEAMS: Chris Boswell hasn’t missed a field goal since Week 3, but he’s still had a rough season, with three missed field goals and three missed extra points overall. Punter Jordan Berry ranks 19th in the league with a net average of 38.9 yards but has put 14 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, 11th best in the NFL. Ryan Switzer has averaged an impressive 11.5 yards on 13 punt returns, despite the fact that his season long is just 23 yards.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens have entered must-win mode after dropping a 24-23 heartbreaker at home to the Saints and taking a 36-21 pounding on the road against the Panthers. If they lose home games to the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals (Nov. 18), coach John Harbaugh could begin to face questions about his job security. On the flip side, the Ravens beat the Steelers soundly in Pittsburgh, and if they do it again, they would thrust themselves right back into AFC North and wild-card contention.

STEELERS INTANGIBLES: The Steelers have won three in a row and regained their familiar spot atop the AFC North. The palace intrigue that undermined them early in the season has faded, with Brown upping his production and Conner asserting himself as a replacement for Bell. If the Steelers continue their roll in Baltimore, they could deliver a significant blow to the playoff hopes of their chief rival. They had won three in a row against the Ravens before their 26-14 loss in Week 4.

EDGE: Even

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PREDICTION: This is desperate-stand time for the Ravens, who don’t want to go into their bye week on a three-game losing streak. They outplayed the Steelers on both sides of the ball a little more than a month ago. And their home crowd will help get them through a back-and-forth stomach churner, 27-24.

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