Mike Pelaia’s First Look: Steelers vs. Ravens

The Steelers fell to the Bears last week in a game that will be remembered as much for their poor play as it will for the team not taking the field for the National Anthem. A lot of talk has been about that decision to remain in the locker room and hopefully for the black and gold, it’s not causing too much of a distraction during Ravens week.

The Steelers find themselves 2-1 and tied for first with their most bitter rival, Baltimore, in a game that requires them to go on the road with both teams having come off a devastating loss. Baltimore and Pittsburgh both were embarrassed last week and should come out hungry for a victory. It may be early in the season but there is a lot on the line for these two enemies.

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These are the keys to a Steelers victory

  1. Unfortunately, it’s the off-field stuff that starts it off. The Steelers cannot let all of the outside noise surrounding the anthem hinder their preparation and focus for the Ravens game this week. If it interrupted any of their time, any of their preparation or even creeps into their heads on game day, it could spell trouble.
  2. Le’Veon Bell needs to be the focal point of the offense. He needs to be given the ball 20 times on the ground and another five to eight times in the air. The long passes downfield for incompletions need to be eliminated and replaced with plays for Bell. He can control the clock and the tempo, if given the chance.
  3. After last week, the run defense better step up. It was gashed up and down the field and looked like it had more holes than swiss cheese. They cannot allow the Ravens to do to them what the Bears did. To me, part of that can be solved by giving James Harrison some more playing time. It’s beyond me as to why the man who led this team in sacks and was a beast last season has played a total of seven snaps this season through three weeks.
  4. The special teams play will be critical this week. I anticipate a very low scoring and close affair and in those types of games; special teams make the difference. It’s not just Chris Boswell making his kicks; it’s punt coverage, kick coverage as well as the returns the Steelers get. The battle for field position will decide the outcome of this contest.

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Here are a few items to watch

  1. The National Anthem – The team says they are coming out and standing for it this week but after last weeks’ fiasco, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
  2. I am interested to see how Ben Roethlisberger responds this week. He came on his radio show this week and echoed what I said last week, he needs to spread the ball around. Let’s hope he does because the offense has been pretty stagnant all season and some of that blame falls on his shoulders.
  3. I’m expecting Le’Veon Bell to blow up this week. I think he’s on the cusp and ready to lead the charge. I’m looking for close to 100 yards rushing and another 50 receiving out of him.
  4. Watch all of the hard hits, trash talk and general disdain the teams have for each other. This is not a rivalry that is specific to just the people in the seats, this one plays out on the field as well.

I expect this game to be very hard hitting, sloppy at times and low scoring. Both teams need this win after an utterly embarrassing showing last week. In this series it’s usually three or four points that separate the combatants at games end and I don’t see why it will be any different this time around. I tend to give the home team the advantage when these teams face off and I’m going to do so again this week as I see the Ravens coming out on top in this one 17-13.

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