Ravens Face Steelers Again: 5 Things to Know
Ravens vs. Steelers. Really, that is all that needs to be said. The Steelers won the AFC North division by beating Cincinnati in the final game of the season. The Ravens won on Sunday and waited to claim the final playoff spot in the AFC.
Whatever way these teams got to the playoffs does not matter – these contests are brutal and at many times, violent. Picking a winner is almost impossible at times, but what is possible is this could be the best game of the opening round of the NFL playoffs.
Here are five things you need to know. Information obtained in this story comes from Yahoo Sports.
RUN EARLY AND OFTEN
Running back Justin Forsett has never had this kind of workload in the pros, and his per-carry average dipped dramatically in December (though it was still a solid 4.6). Forsett did finish strong with 119 yards on 17 carries against Cleveland. If he can get it going against Pittsburgh, one of eight teams in the NFL to allow 4.4 yards or more per rush, that will help Joe Flacco and also keep the Steelers’ offense off the field.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb will cover Antonio Brown plenty of times, and that’s a tough task. Jimmy Smith did a good job against Brown in the first Ravens-Steelers game, but he’s on IR now. In the second matchup, without Smith to cover him, Brown had 11 catches for 144 yards. Webb won’t shut down Brown, because nobody does, but he has to limit him the best he can.
These Ravens know they can beat Pittsburgh having done it once this year, albeit way back in Week 2. There really is no intimidation factor having to play at Pittsburgh for the Steelers’ biggest rival. It’s just whether their offense plays better than it has the past couple weeks.
THE KEY AT LINEBACKER
Outside linebacker Jason Worilds came on late, with 5.5 sacks in the Steelers’ last seven games. Flacco is adept at throwing deep, but his effectiveness dips significantly when he’s under pressure. The Steelers’ biggest priority on defense is getting pressure on Flacco, and Worilds is the best shot at that.
RUNNING BY COMMITTEE
Le’Veon Bell isn’t just a very good back, he plays an insanely high percentage of snaps in this back-by-committee era. Rookie running back Dri Archer plays roughly three snaps a game. But if Bell is limited or can’t play at all, Archer will get many more snaps, as will rookie Josh Harris. Harris (or recently-signed veteran Ben Tate) would have a normal tailback role, but the versatile Archer could be an asset to the offense out of the backfield. Archer is insanely fast, and he could be a nice new weapon on offense if used in certain ways.
There should be two outlooks for this game: If Bell is healthy and if he’s not. He makes that much of a difference. The Steelers’ offense is diverse and explosive if everyone is healthy, and the Ravens will have a tough time matching that. But Flacco had a good season, Forsett had a surprisingly productive year, and this game should be more of a shootout than we've become used to for Steelers vs. Ravens. If Bell plays and is mostly effective, give the Steelers the edge.
STEELERS 23 RAVENS 21