I’m out of town doing some traveling this weekend, so I don’t have the time (or Internet access) to do a crazy preview post for today’s game, but here are 10 quick thoughts heading into the biggest game of the year.
1. I’ve got to think the biggest matchup of the game is going to be Max Starks against Terrell Suggs. Suggs has terrorized the Steelers the past several years and completely embarrassed Jonathan Scott in week one. The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger will be able to throw the ball against Baltimore if Starks can contain Suggs most of the night.
2. The Ravens made the Steelers look “old and slow” in week one, but the Steelers they face this week are a heck of a lot younger. Guys like Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward, Stevenson Sylvester, Keenan Lewis, Weslye Saunders, Jonathan Dwyer, Antonio Brown and and Steve McLendon have all taken on bigger roles and gotten a lot better since the opening week. The “old and slow” Steelers look a lot more like the “Young Money” Steelers these days.
3. Since their first matchup, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 13 TDs and 4 INTs. Joe Flacco has thrown 5 TDs and 6 INTs. His QB rating for the year is 75.4. Ouch.
4. Night game at Heinz Field against the Steelers’ biggest rival. The atmosphere is going to be electric tonight. Flacco has played some miserable games at Heinz Field…this could be one of the toughest environments he has ever played in.
5. Ike Taylor has had a Pro Bowl-type season this year and he’ll likely have the task of following Anquan Boldin around the field tonight. Lee Evans is injured and won’t play and Boldin has become Flacco’s go-to receiver. Tonight is another chance for Ike to stake his claim as one of the best cover corners in the game.
6. Speaking of coverage, Baltimore’s tight ends killed the Steelers during the team’s last meeting. The Steelers have to do a better job on Ed Dickson
7. It seems like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are always at the center of the Steelers/Ravens games. Polamalu has typically made game-changing plays while Reed is somewhat invisible, but the opposite was true during the week one blowout. Aside from Suggs/Starks, the battle of Hall of Fame safeties might have the most impact on the game.
8. Thoughts and prayers for Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders, whose mother passed away this week. He’s out tonight and under no circumstances should he have been playing. Anybody who is upset that he’s not in the lineup has got some major problems.
9. Bruce Arians and the offense have been on some kind of roll lately. Arians has been masterful in his play calling for most of the season. Tonight will likely be his biggest challenge of the year. With Sanders out, the Steelers will have a little less speed on the field and the Ravens pass rush isn’t nearly as tame as the one the Steelers saw last week from the Patriots. I’d like to see the Steelers pull out the game plan they used against Tennessee, where Roethlisberger threw a ton of short and intermediary routes on 3-step drops. He rarely left the pocket, but the WRs and TEs are good enough to get open quickly and make plays.
10. A prediction: Steelers 21 Ravens 20. This one could definitely go either way. Both defenses are so good, these games usually are determined by which QB makes less mistakes. Flacco has been awful this season and while he is due to break out of his slump, I don’t think it is happening at Heinz Field on a Sunday night.