The Ravens head back on the road this week in a matchup that could prove vital in the 2013 season.
Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field will bring together two of the NFL's greatest rivals, who are both fighting to keep themselves from falling into too deep of a whole in the AFC North race.
The Steelers (1-4) have struggled through the first part of the season, but the Ravens (3-3) stressed this week that the records do not matter for this kind of rivalry.
"They're still the Steelers," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "A lot of people are going to talk about their record and the way they've been playing so far. They've lost some tough games, but they're still a great team."
This weekend's game is also a chance for the Ravens to get back on track after falling to the Green Bay Packers Sunday. The Ravens have never been under .500 at this point of the season under Head Coach John Harbaugh, and they will look for that trend to continue with their fourth-straight win at Heinz Field.
Matchups To Watch
OLB Terrell Suggs vs. QB Ben RoethlisbergerThis is always a fun battle to watch, and Suggs and Roethlisberger are two of the key faces in this rivalry. Injuries forced Roethlisberger to miss both games against the Ravens last season, so this will be his first time against Baltimore since 2011. Suggs has sacked Roethlisberger 15.5 times over the course of his career, and he hopes to add to the total with another impressive game.
WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Ike TaylorSmith often ends up lined up across from Taylor in these matchups, and Taylor has limited Smith in previous games. Expect plenty of banter between the two players, as Smith said earlier this week that Taylor talks more trash than anyone in the NFL and that he always brings the smack talk out of him.
QB Joe Flacco vs. Troy PolamaluThe future Hall of Fame safety is healthy and playing at a high level again after dealing with multiple injuries the last couple season. Flacco also has to be aware of where Polamalu is on the field, as he has the ability to cause problems in coverage and as a pass rusher. Keeping track of Polamalu is critical for the offense this week, especially to keep him from coming up with any turnovers.
Keys To The Game
Clear Holes In Running Game
The struggling offensive line has been a talking point throughout the week, as the group has struggled to open holes in the running game for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said throughout the week that the Ravens are looking through every aspect of their run game to see where they can make changes, and they will have a chance to put those tweaks on display against the Steelers.
Limit Big PlaysThe defense limited an explosive Packers offense for much of the game last week, but the unit still gave up big plays that ended up leading to points. The defense has to keep plays in front of them and prevent the Steelers from hitting big gains in the passing game. Roethlisberger is one of the best in the NFL at extending plays and finding receivers downfield, so the Ravens will have to stick with receivers downfield even longer than usual.
Start FasterA common theme for the offense this season has been the inability to start fast – both in games and on drives. The Ravens have put up just three points in the first quarter the last five games, and they have not been able to consistently move the ball on first downs. If the Ravens can get into a rhythm early and play with the lead, then that could also help them maintain a balanced approach on offense and have more success in the running game.