The Ravens are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and the Thanksgiving night matchup against the Steelers will go a long way in determining if they can advance to the postseason for the sixth-straight year.
Both teams are 5-6 and in the thick of the race for the second wild-card spot. They also still have an outside shot at catching the Bengals (7-4) in the AFC North race.
"This game definitely means a lot for both teams," running back Ray Rice said. "We have a lot at stake. We're both teams that are so called 'in the hunt,' and every game matters from here on out. So, to have it on Thanksgiving and to have it Thursday, really it's a national stage, and it's going to be a huge game."
After a slow start to the season, the Steelers have bounced back and are currently riding a three-game winning streak into Baltimore. The Ravens hope to squash that streak in another classic hard-nosed game, which is arguably the best rivalry in the NFL.
"There is always a sense that this is going to be a very physical game," Rice said. "They're playing really good football right now, so every game matters."
Matchups To Watch
LB Daryl Smith vs. RB Le'Veon BellThe Steelers had success on the ground last time against the Ravens, and rookie Le'Veon Bell has proven this season to be a powerful running back. Ravens defenders have talked during the week about the importance of stopping Bell, and Smith will play a critical role in keeping him from finding success through the middle of the defense.
CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Antonio BrownPittsburgh's speedy receiver has emerged as one of the biggest playmakers in the NFL. He has 80 catches for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns this season. Brown has the speed to get deep on defenses, and he can also work the middle of the field out of the slot. Webb will likely line up across from Brown for most of the game, and the Ravens will need another strong performance from their top cornerback to keep the Steelers from having a big day through the air.
OLB Terrell Suggs vs. QB Ben RoethlisbergerThe battle between Suggs and Roethlisberger is a classic part of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. No NFL player has sacked Roethlisberger more than Suggs, and the Ravens' pass rusher always cherishes a chance to bring down Big Ben. Suggs has gone three straight games without a sack, so he will be looking to change that this week. Baltimore's pass rush overall has been one of the NFL's best this season, and with a sack against Roethlisberger, the Ravens will have posted at least one sack in a franchise-record 23 straight games.
Keys To The Game
Score in the red zoneWhen the offense gets inside the 20-yard line, the Ravens have to do a better job of coming away with touchdowns. Baltimore made four trips inside the red zone Sunday against the Jets, but scored just nine points. Getting touchdowns instead of field goals is important for the Ravens to maximize their opportunities on offense.
Contain Roethlisberger in the pocketRoethlisberger has made a career out of extending plays with his feet and hitting big gains down the field once the play breaks down. The Ravens have seen that from him time and time again, and they will have to find a way to keep him contained inside the pocket. Roethlisberger might be the toughest player in the league for pass rushers to bring down, but the Ravens can't miss their shots at him when they get a chance.
Keep Steelers honest with running gameThe Ravens running game has shown signs of life in recent weeks, and had their best performance of the season two weeks ago in Chicago where Rice put up 131 rushing yards and a touchdown. They did not have as much success last week against the Jets, but still stuck with the ground game and finished with 67 yards on 31 carries. The Ravens used quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the wildcat to spark the running game last week, and they could try that approach against Pittsburgh. Regardless of how they try to move the ball on the ground, finding some success with the running game is important to keep the Steelers defense from just playing the pass and coming after quarterback Joe Flacco in the pocket.