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Game Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens


It's only Week 2, so it's far too early to be calling any game a "must-win."

But Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium comes with a heavy impact on where the Ravens will finish in the division.

If the Ravens win, they'll be right in the thick of the division race. If they lose, they'll essentially be 2.5 games down to their chiefdivisional foes with two losses coming at home.

Baltimore would have to go on a roll against its division rivals on the road (a very difficult task) to rebound from the early deficit. Thus, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was asked how important it is not to go 0-2 in the division to start the season.

"It's everything," he said. "You don't want to come out of an 0-2 hole, especially giving up two at home. Wins in the NFL are hard to come by, so that's why you've got to win your home games.

"We unfortunately dropped one; [the Bengals] cashed in and they won one, a division game. We've definitely got to cover up some ground, but it all starts with this one come Thursday."

Three Matchups To Watch

Ravens No. 2 CB vs. WR Markus Wheaton
Fans won't know who the Ravens will start opposite Jimmy Smith until the players take the field. It could be Lardarius Webb in his first game of the year (including the preseason) or Chykie Brown. Brown got beat for the Bengals' game-winning touchdown last week, and he could face another speedster in Pittsburgh's Markus Wheaton. Wheaton is a 2013 third-round pick who caught six passes for 97 yards in Week 1 against Cleveland.

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Kelvin Beachum
Suggs seems to always bring his best against the Steelers. Including the playoffs, he has 19.5 career sacks against those in gold and black, the most he has against any single team in the NFL. Suggs didn't get any sacks in Week 1, but he still often beat his blockers to create pressure. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton just got the ball out quickly. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a slower release.

RT Rick Wagner vs. OLB Jason Worilds
LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are gone, but the Steelers have a young pass rusher that's just as fearsome. Worilds has plenty of speed and strength, and he'll go up against Wagner, who is making his second career start after a solid Week 1 showing. Worilds had two sacks against the Ravens the last time they met. He notched one in the Steelers' season opener.

Three Keys To The Game

Fast Start And Balance For Offense
The Ravens can't afford to have another sluggish offensive start. They were shut out in the first half by the Cincinnati Bengals, putting them in an early hole. Baltimore's offense still has high expectations for itself after launching a comeback in Week 1. It ultimately got things moving against the Bengals, but can't wait around that long again.If they don't get behind early, they will have a better chance of creating balance between the pass and ground games. Last week, 62 of the Ravens' 85 offensive plays came through the air.

Win On Special Teams
One area where the Ravens have consistently been able to beat the Steelers in recent years is on special teams. Jacoby Jones could have returned a kickoff for a touchdown last year had Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin not stepped onto the field. Jones scored on a punt return in Pittsburgh two years ago. The Steelers also have a dangerous returner themselves in lightning-quick wide receiver Antonio Brown, who karate kicked the Brownspunter in Week 1.

Limit Le'Veon Bell
The Steelers are making more of an emphasis to run the ball this year. That's how they beat the Ravens last year in Pittsburgh. Then-rookie Le'Veon Bell rumbled for 93 yards his first time facing Baltimore, then 73 yards and a touchdown in their second meeting. He's coming off a performance with 21 carries, 109 yards and a touchdown against the Browns. It doesn't stop with Bell. The Ravens also have to bottle up powerful Steelers backup running back LeGarrette Blount.

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