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Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Steelers

110318_GamePreview

Basics

Kickoff: 1 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: Channel 13, WJZ (Baltimore) CBS crew (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98Rock (97.9 FM)
Jersey color: Black

Stakes

Having dropped two straight, the Ravens (4-4) face the biggest game of their season to date. A victory would give them a season sweep over Pittsburgh (4-2-1) and keep them in the thick of the AFC North race. A loss would drop the Ravens below .500 for the first time this season heading into their bye next week.

History

This is a superb rivalry with many high-stakes games in its history. Pittsburgh holds a 24-21 overall edge, including 3-1 in the playoffs. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has a 12-12 record against Pittsburgh during his tenure, and 13 of those 24 games have been decided by four points or less. In Week 4, the Ravens defeated the Steelers, 26-14, at Heinz Field. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver John Brown had three catches for 116 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown. The Ravens shut out Pittsburgh in the second half, while Justin Tucker kicked four second-half field goals to secure the win.

Key Storylines

Can the Ravens defense recapture its mojo?

Baltimore still has the NFL’s top-ranked defense, but that status looks tainted. The Ravens have surrendered 53 points over the last five quarters – 17 fourth-quarter points against New Orleans and 36 points during a beatdown by the Carolina Panthers. On Sept. 30 in Pittsburgh, Baltimore shut down Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in the second half. The Ravens need to reestablish that their defense can still play at that level.

Will the Ravens offensive line overcome its recent rash of injuries?

The Ravens have started three different left guards the past three weeks, and a back injury to James Hurst has forced rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. into the starting lineup. With left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) out Sunday Jermaine Eluemunor is expected to start at left tackle. The line has held up despite the moving parts. However, facing the Steelers will be another test. Pittsburgh entered Week 9 tied for second in the NFL with 24 sacks, just three behind Baltimore.

Will big plays return to the Ravens’ offense?

Flacco is averaging just 6.6 yards per passing attempt, and chunk plays for the Ravens have been few and far between recently. Baltimore needs to produce some explosive plays Sunday, because it may take a strong offensive performance to beat Pittsburgh.

Key Matchups

Ravens WR John Brown vs. Steelers secondary

Brown has been held to just 28 yards receiving in two of his last three games, as opponents have increased their focus on shutting him down. Brown gave Pittsburgh fits in September, and he expects more attention this time. If he has a breakout game, the Ravens’ chances to win improve greatly.

Steelers _QB_ Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens pass rush

Roethlisberger has been sacked just once over the past three games and Baltimore’s pass rush has recorded one sack the past two games. The Ravens can’t afford to give Roethlisberger time to survey the field. Pittsburgh’s receivers can only be covered for so long.

Ravens offensive tackles vs. Steelers pass rushers

An obvious choice, but an important matchup. Much of the Ravens’ offensive success will depend upon how well their line protects Flacco. Eluemunor could have his hands full protecting Flacco's blind side, and Brown will have to deal with Steelers left outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who leads them with seven sacks.

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