In the last 10 years the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens have played some of the best football games of all time. The rivalry between the two teams is uncanny.
Fans always knew what was going to be the game plan for both teams: Play solid defense, get after the quarterback and don’t turn the ball over.
This season’s matchup will be quite different than previous years. Ray Lewis will not be on the field.
Lewis was placed on the IR list on October 17th with a torn triceps muscle. There was no question Lewis was the Ravens unquestioned leader. His leadership as well as his play on the field is sorely missed by the defense.
Baltimore’s defense was typically in the top 5 in every statistical category possible. This season has been quite the change. Overall Baltimore ranks 26th in total defense as the Steelers are ranked at the top of that list.
The Ravens allow 124.5 more yards per game than Pittsburgh’s defense. Baltimore allows nearly 22 points per game while the Steelers allow 20 ppg.
The only statistical category that Baltimore bests Pittsburgh is the takeaways. The Steelers have just 9 takeaways on the season to the Ravens 18. Both offenses have 9 giveaways on the season, putting Baltimore at +9 and Pittsburgh at 0 in the +/- margin.
Ed Reed has always been a ball hawk playing centerfield for the Ravens. Reed comes into Pittsburgh a little banged up after he suffered a stinger from a hit on Darius Heyward-Bay last week.
Troy Polamalu is still listed as doubtful for the Steelers while Ryan Clark claims he is probable. Clark suffered a concussion against the Chiefs, but says he is fine. Coach Tomlin assured the media that if the doctors say that Clark is cleared he will play.
The two team’s offenses have nearly identical numbers on the other hand. Both average 354 ypg, 250 passing ypg, 105 rushing ypg. Baltimore scores 28.2 ppg while Pittsburgh averages 23 ppg.
The big difference amongst the offenses is at quarterback.
Joe Flacco argued in the offseason that he is elite, but still has yet to show any elite numbers. His 60%
completion rate, 2331 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs and 88.3 QB rating are all just average Joe numbers.
Ben Roethlisberger will not play this week after suffering an SC Sprain. For comparison purposes here are Big Ben’s numbers: 66 % completion, 2287 yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs and 100.0 QB rating.
All of Ben’s numbers look great, but unfortunately the injury will allow Byron Leftwich to get the start.
Leftwich looked rusty in the 13-10 overtime win against Kansas City on Monday. Don’t forget that most back-up QBs rarely take snaps during the week. They watch the film and do all the mental work, but physical snaps are the best thing for a player.
Todd Haley will have to dig deep in the playbook to make sure he can put Leftwich in the most comfortable situations possible.
Baltimore is why Haley got the job, quick passes, efficient on 3rd down with taking a few chances down the field. This is the week the offense gets put to the test. It is just a shame that Pittsburgh won’t have their starting QB.
This will no doubt be a big game for both team’s season. The Steelers enter the game just one game behind the Ravens. Pittsburgh’s next three games will be a true test to their season when the play Baltimore, Cleveland and Baltimore again.
Side note: Baltimore beat Kansas City earlier in the season 9-6. Don’t put too much stock in that game.