Can Ravens Limit Brown Again?
A strong argument could be made that the Steelers' Antonio Brown is the NFL's best wide receiver. He leads the league in receiving yards (1,586) and is second in catches (116). The Ravens held Brown to his second-worst performance of the year in Week 4 (five catches, 42 yards). It may be harder to stop him this time, however, considering Ravens cornerback Will Davis shadowed Brown that night and Davis is now on injured reserve (knee). Brown, meanwhile, has topped 100 yards in four of his past six games with a 17-catch, 284-yard performance in Week 9 and 16-catch, 189-yard showing last week.
Big Ben Is Back
There's another big reason why Brown will be harder to slow in the second edition of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Big Ben is back. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed the Week 4 showdown because of a knee injury, sending backup Michael Vick into action. Vick hardly attempted any deep passes that week, but that definitely won't be the case with Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger back, the Steelers now boast the NFL's second-best offense. They've averaged 35 points per game over their last six games, all with Roethlisberger under center. Big-play wideout Martavis Bryant is also playing after missing the earlier rivalry matchup because of a suspension.
Debut Of Mallett?
This may end up being moot, but Ryan Mallett could start against the Steelers. If so, it would mark the Ravens' fourth starting quarterback this year in the revolving door that has ensued since Joe Flacco was lost to a knee injury in Week 11. The strong-armed Mallett is in line to be Flacco's backup next season, so this would be a preview into what Ravens fans could expect. If Mallett starts – which won't be known until game time – he will have had two weeks of preparation in Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman's system. If it's not Mallett, Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will start.
Buck Allen's Bounce Back
After fumbling in a second straight game, rookie running back Javorius "Buck" Allen was benched in Sunday's 34-14 loss to the Chiefs. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Allen won't be banished, however, and will return to a prominent role against the Steelers. Allen needs to show that the fumbling problems can be fixed. While his physicality has been applauded, it can't come at the expense of ball security. Turnovers have crushed the Ravens this season and the offensively-geared Steelers will pounce on any extra possessions.
Harbaugh said he expects a strong showing from the Baltimore faithful on Sunday night because his team doesn't have fair-weather fans. But with the Ravens struggling, there could be more terrible towels in the stands than usual. While this game will mark the first time the Ravens and Steelers haven't been on primetime television in two years, Harbaugh and the Ravens are still hoping their purple-clad fans will create a tough atmosphere for the visitors.