Game Preview: Ravens At Steelers


For many years, the AFC North has come down to the Ravens and Steelers battling for a playoff spot.

That could once again be the case this season, as the divisional rivals have identical 5-3 heading into their Week 9 showdown. Both teams are chasing the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North's top spot, and neither wants to lose any ground in the tight race.

"It's always a big game," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It always means a lot, in terms of what's on the line for the season."

The race is as close as ever, and the AFC North is the only division in the NFL where every team has a winning record. The winner of the prime-time showdown at Heinz Field could come out of Sunday's matchup as the division leader. The loser could drop to last place in the race.

"You want to win all your rivalry games," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "And they're rolling, and we're coming off a loss, so it should be interesting. It should be pretty interesting. So, I'm really looking forward to it."

Three Matchups To Watch

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. QB Ben Roethlisberger

This always seems to be the marquee matchup whenever these teams come together. Suggs loves going after Roethlisberger, and they've had some great battles over the years. This game could be particularly significant for the Ravens' pass rusher, as he's just two sacks shy of 100 in his career. He's picked up sacks in three straight games, and he's also sacked Roethlisberger 16.5 times in his career(including playoffs), so this could be the week to reach that milestone.

WR Torrey Smith vs. CB William Gay

The Steelers have been without starting cornerback Ike Taylor the last five games because of a broken forearm, and he could be out again this week. If that's the case, then cornerback William Gay could end up defending wide receiver Torrey Smith for much of the night. A Smith vs. Gay matchup brings back some good memories for Ravens fans, as he was the cornerback when Smith caught a game-winning touchdown at Heinz Field his rookie season.

CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Antonio Brown

Pittsburgh's passing game is red hot, and Brown is a big reason why. He leads the NFL with 60 catches and is second with 852 receiving yards. Brown is a smaller, shifty receiver who can work the middle of the field to move the chains. He also has big-play potential, as he is second in the NFL with 13 catches of at least 20 yards. Webb will bear much of the responsibility to limit Brown, especially with top cornerback Jimmy Smith out with a foot injury. Webb is a smaller cornerback who is well-equipped to run with Brown, and his ability to limit the explosive receiver will be critical for Baltimore.

Three Keys to the Game

Stop The Turnovers

The Ravens were their own worst enemy at times last week. Flacco opened the second half with interceptions on back-to-back drives, which put the Ravens in a big hole. Flacco and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak have both stressed the importance of cutting down on those mistakes. Eliminating turnovers has been a point of emphasis this week, and the Ravens can't give the potent Pittsburgh offense extra possessions.

Keep Ben From Getting Hot

Roethlisberger showed last week against the Colts that he's virtually unstoppable when he gets in a groove. The Ravens need to keep him from getting into that kind of a rhythm. If Roethlisberger and the Steelers open the game with early scoring drives, then that could mean trouble for Baltimore's banged-up secondary.

Make Plays In Crunch Time

History suggests that Sunday's game will come down to the fourth quarter. The last six Ravens-Steelers regular-season games at Heinz Field have been decided by three points, and big plays in the final minute have defined the best games of this rivalry. The Ravens came up a few plays short against the Bengals, and they will have to be ready to make the clutch plays to ensure they come back to Baltimore victorious.

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