Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ravens-Steelers Tonight. Big Rematch.

Can't really say much except it's a big game for both teams in terms of divisional standing and potential playoff seeding.  The Ravens have struggled recently and are looking to win the regular season head-to-head with the Steelers, whom they crushed in week 1.  The Ravens' offense has struggled and are looking to get Ray Rice and Joe Flacco on track tonight.  The Steelers, on the other hand, have been looking good and are coming off of a big win last week against the Patriots.  The Steelers are also at home and are looking for revenge for their week 1 flop against the Ravens.  It's one of the most intense rivalries in the NFL, and it's not going to be any different tonight.

Ben Roethlisbergher has been on fire lately, but it's going to be tough tonight against the Ravens defense.  That unit has always given the Steelers offense trouble, especially Terrell Suggs, who's always had Ben's number in terms of pressuring Ben and making him do things he shouldn't be doing that would hurt the Steelers.  The offensive line will have their hands full against a powerful defensive front led by Haloti Ngata and the run game will certainly struggle against it.  Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are dangerous in the open field, and will certainly be causing problems for the Steelers.  One of the keys for the Steelers to win is to protect Ben well enough so that he can get rid of the ball to avoid turnovers or find open guys.  In turn, Ben has to protect the ball and play smart football.  He needs to do what he did last week against the Patriots, spreading the ball around and not make mistakes.  That is what the coaching staff should focus on, preventing mistakes while looking to make plays.
Another key is the receiving corps, who will be watched by one of the league's best overall defenses.  The Ravens passing D is miles ahead of the Patriots, and it will be important that it's not just the big plays the Steelers should be going for, but time of possession and efficiently effective yards gained.  Finally, the run game, while not as important in terms of play calling, must be ready as it has been inconsistent all season long.  It isn't just gaining tough yards that is needed, but also pass protection and catching that the backs need to be involved in.

It will be an overall team effort for the offense, as this Ravens defense has been effective in terms of causing problems for them and Ben needs to play his best again.  The offense needs to protect the football better tonight, and if they can do that, then they will score points and control the game.  They cannot have seven turnovers again against the Ravens, or it will be a long day against the Ravens again.

Defensively, the Steelers will be without James Farrior and, more importantly, Lamarr Woodley.  Woodley was named Defensive Player for October and it will be a huge loss for the Steelers' linebacker corps.  He was getting on fire and would have been looking to continue that tonight had he not been hit by a hamstring injury.  James Harrison will be back after missing a whole month due to a broken eye socket, but I don't know how well he'll play after being out for that long.  It will be up to the youngsters to step up and not only create pressure, but make plays when needed.  We saw how the Patriots were able to come back after Woodley left the game due to injury, and the replacements need to step up tonight to show why the Steelers signed them to the team.  They need to play smart and effective against a potentially dangerous offense that has Ray Rice doing everything for the offense.  Joe Flacco has struggled, but he can cause problems for the defense and he'll look to have a repeat performance against the Steelers like in week 1.  The linebackers need to step up and create turnovers to give their offense a chance.

The defensive front needs to play extremely well, for Ray Rice has burned them before, especially in week 1.  The run defense hasn't been like they've been used to, although the secondary has improved in passing D.  In any case, the defensive linemen need to create pressure and force Flacco to make mistakes.  To do that, they have to contain Ray Rice, otherwise the Ravens will be eating up the scoreboard again.  It's an intense rivalry game, and the Steelers need to play with coolness.  Ike Taylor needs to show he's good at being a cornerback and not commit stupid penalties as he's shown to have done before.  Keenan Lewis has been a godsend, stepping up and improving when given the chance.  The Steelers defensive backfield needs to prevent the Ravens' receiving corps from causing a lot of damage again.  Troy Polamalu is nearing breakout game potential, and I personally hope that tonight is it for him to get on track.

The Steelers defensive needs to play near perfect football tonight.  They must be able to create pressure and force the Ravens to make mistakes if they want to make this game close, or at least prevent the Ravens from getting scoring chances.  The Steelers defense has definitely looked at their first meeting very closely and are looking to redeem themselves tonight.

Special teams took a hit when Daniel Sepulveda was put on IR yesterday.  Jeremy Kapinos has been signed on to replace him.  Sepulveda was looking good as a punter, but now it's imperative that field position is in the Steelers' favor.  The Steelers have to protect the ball to prevent blocking attempts on field goals and punts, prevent the Ravens from getting good field position and scoring chances, and give themselves chances at favorable field position.  It would be bonuses for the Steelers if they can get touchdowns on special teams play, but they need to play smart football in order to give Ben and the offense scoring chances.  It is another aspect the Steelers need to play smart at, as the last time they played the Ravens saw them score on a fake field goal.  That cannot happen again, and the Steelers' special teams unit needs to step up tonight as well.

I'm hoping the Steelers win tonight, I really do, but week 1's results don't really give me much confidence.  The Steelers did win big against the Pats last week, but the Ravens will be a tougher match up.  Plus, before last week's win, the Steelers have won against bad teams but a couple were closer than they should have been because of dumb mistakes and missed opportunities.  The Steelers need to make a statement tonight against the Ravens, because they have the players to contain the Steelers' receiving corps, and the defense has been hit by the injury bug.  It will be tough, and the Steelers need this win to stay close in the divisonal race, especially when they face an improving Bengals team next week.  For tonight, the Steelers need to win, and it will be a close 24-21 victory.

Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!

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