The Steelers and Ravens are both knotted atop of the AFC North with 2-1 records as the unstoppable force meets the immovable object this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Okay, so maybe neither of those teams fit the descriptions of “immovable” or “unstoppable”. Both squads fell to, what appeared to be on paper, inferior teams. The Ravens were blown out in London by the Jaguars while the Steelers were upset in overtime by the Bears.
That leads us to the five players you should keep an eye on in this upcoming game.
Right Outside Linebacker
Has anyone seen James Harrison lately?
For better or worse, the Steelers have been riding with their young guns: Watt was ruled out of last week’s game in Chicago with a groin injury. He was replaced by the team’s current sacks leader, Chickillo, who along with others, struggled against the run on Sunday.
No matter which of these men play in the right outside linebacker position on Sunday, it’s the spot to watch, as the Ravens have the 32nd-ranked passing offense, but the 4th-ranked rushing attack.
In other words, it’s the Bears all over again: can’t pass, so run, run, and run some more.
Will the defense respond this week?
Roethlisberger’s road woes continue. Since 2014 he has thrown 28 touchdowns to 25 interceptions on the road in 28 total away games (including the postseason).
More troubling is that Ben hasn’t won a game in Baltimore since 2010, and the Steelers haven’t won there since some last minute heroics by Charlie Batch in 2012.
While Big Ben’s numbers weren’t terrible last week, it still feels as if the offense isn’t on the same page; and that largely falls on the quarterback, and captain, of the team.
If you thought Big Ben was bad last Sunday, then I’m not sure what the proper word to describe Joe Flacco would be.
The Ravens quarterback completed only eight of his 18 passes for a total of 28 yards while throwing two interceptions. He was benched in the second half and ended the day with a 12.0 quarterback rating.
Flacco has always been a thorn in the Steelers side, drawing the ire of fans when he throws deep “jump balls” that bait Pittsburgh’s defensive backs into pass interference penalties. Yet, Flacco hasn’t looked the same after missing all of the Ravens offseason with back issues.
Can he be the same thorn in the Steelers side as usual with the Ravens 32nd ranked pass defense?
Suggs is an interesting case study. The 35-year-old pass rusher falls into the five to watch because he’s thought to be a disruptive power on the Ravens defense, however, he may be one in decline.
Suggs piled up three sacks in the Ravens first two games (Browns and Bengals) but failed to get to the quarterback against Jacksonville last weekend. It’s tough to gauge if he’s in decline because he started hot, but of course, he hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2014. Since that 12 sack season, he has played one game in 2015 (no stats registered) 15 in 2016 (eight sacks) and the three sacks noted above in 2017 thus far.
However, Suggs hasn’t had much success against the Steelers since a huge three-sack performance to open the Ravens 2011 season. Since that game played in September of 2011, Suggs has registered only a single sack in nine games against the Steelers (including a Wild Card postseason game in 2014).
Has Pittsburgh figured out how to shut Suggs down? Or will he find a way to be a nuisance on Sunday?
The Ravens free agent acquisition was part of an offseason overhaul of the team’s secondary.
Adding Carr has paid off through three games, where the Ravens had back-to-back four interception showings in their first two contests. Carr was the recipient of two of those picks and has defended a team-high six passes so far.