Preview: 2015 – Game 4 – Baltimore Ravens

Is it bad to say that I don’t know what to expect from Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens?

The world is seemingly upside down…

Ben Roethlisberger is out and Michael Vick is in at QB

Somehow how the Baltimore Ravens, the Steeler fiercest rival, continue to dodge star players. How many times have they avoided Big Ben over the years? And then last year’s playoff game, where Le’Veon Bell sat out too. Throughout the seasons, Baltimore has faced their fair share of Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, with many of those games decided on special teams plays. Michael Vick may have to do the same.

This Ravens team can no longer rely on Jacoby Jones to return a punt or kick for a touchdown, as he’s no longer on the team. Likewise, the Steelers can’t lean on Shawn Suisham for last second heroics with a winning field goal.

Low Scoring Affairs

Each time I write a preview against the Ravens, I am reminded of low-scoring affairs. But that didn’t really happen last year, with Baltimore putting up 26 and 30 points in their wins, and the Steelers adding 43 in their victory.

I somehow can’t see this happening Thursday with Mike Vick. This reminds me more like the 2013 Steelers, who entered Heinz Field with a 1-4 record, only to turn around and defend their turf in a nail-biter, 19-16 win. In that game, Ben Roethlisberger only attempted 23 passes, while the team rushed for 141 yards (with only 160 passing on that low number of tries.)

Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount combined for 43 total rushing yards when the Steelers blew out the Ravens on Mean Joe Greene night last season.

No Terrell Suggs

Suggs, a constant Pittsburgh nemesis, is out for the season. This changes the Ravens defense dramatically.

Ravens Are 0-3

The Ravens were the only team in the NFL who had never started a season with 3 losses. One has to think they are highly motivated to win their first one in enemy territory.

And therefore, this game is upside-down. It will not feel like the traditional Steelers-Ravens donnybrook we are used to. But in it’s own way, it’s a highly unpredictable game that will have national attention, once again displayed on prime time TV.

For many reasons, I have to lean on my own team here. I have that gut feeling Mike Vick really is the lynch pin of this offense. A left-handed quarterback changes everything, and hopefully, in Vick’s case, the rest of the offense is prepared to raise him up.

The Steelers couldn’t run the football on Baltimore with or without Bell last season. That will be Baltimore’s motivation, to slow down the Steelers RBs and force Vick to throw. But that could also be the Ravens downfall. I still feel their safeties are too weak and that’s how they were beaten deep last season.

They were also beaten often by A.J. Green last week.

Considering Andy Dalton is no Ben Roethlisberger, but Michael Vick can easily be an Andy Dalton, paired with a seemingly unstoppable Antonio Brown, we may see similar fireworks instead of a low-scoring, run-oriented, in-the-trenches battle.

When Baltimore gets the ball, it will be Joe Flacco jump ball at it’s finest. The true test for a young Steelers defense will be avoiding these aimless passes intended to draw flags. The Ravens running game is back to being in 2013 form: bad. Better for a defense that has improved against the run and not allowed a 100 yard rusher this season. That trend will continue.

The trend I don’t want to see continue is a poor passing defense. I feel it’s on the upswing, and if the Steelers can get to Joe Flacco, something they did zero times in their first meeting last season (but did 4 times in the blowout) I think we’ll have a better feel for how this team will shake out – and that should translate to a victory, if not some defensive scoring.

Which is where I’m at with this game. I can see both offenses absolutely lighting it up, or both offenses miserably struggling. I don’t think we’ll see a one-sided game unless one team coughs up the ball multiple times. My gut feeling tells me, as in the past, it’s going to be a defensive score or big special teams play, that will break this one open.

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