Will Flacco Silence Heinz Field Again?
Joe Flacco's history in Cincinnati? Not so good.
But Flacco's history in Pittsburgh? Very good.
No visiting NFL quarterback has won more games at Heinz Field than Flacco in the stadium's 13-year history, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley. His three wins are tied with longtime former Bengal Carson Palmer.
Flacco loves playing at M&T Bank Stadium, but there is one feeling that equals the adrenaline of playing in front of a home crowd.
Silencing a hostile crowd.
"There are times where it's almost just as good to go in there and play so good that you can silence people that really don't want to be silenced and aren't very good at holding their words," Flacco said Wednesday.
So, Hensley wonders if Flacco can silence Heinz Field again Sunday night (below you'll see that experts don't think he will).
"In winning in Pittsburgh, Flacco has done so with a flair for the dramatics," wrote Hensley.
Flacco has thrown two winning touchdowns in the final minute in Pittsburgh, and we remember them like they were yesterday.
The first was an 18-yard toss to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 seconds remaining. Houshmandzadeh famously saluted the heartbroken Steelers fans in the end zone after propelling the Ravens to the 17-14 win.
And then there was the 26-yard winning touchdown to then-rookie Torrey Smith with eight seconds left for the 23-20 victory (mobile users click "View in browser" at the top of the page to watch the highlight video below).
So why does Flacco feel so comfortable in the hostile Pittsburgh environment?
"I think you gain a comfort level just by going to a place so many times," Flacco said. "And the fact that we have won up there definitely gives you confidence personally."
Week 9: Ravens vs. Steelers Picks
The large majority of experts are betting against the Ravens in Pittsburgh.
A whopping 25 of 32 analysts below think the Steelers will get revenge in the second matchup of the season.
And here's why:
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is out, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hot.
"The way Roethlisberger's throwing the ball lately? I can't take Baltimore and that cornerback group against him on the road," wrote FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager.
"Jimmy Smith was having an All-Pro caliber start to the season. … The Ravens have just three healthy cornerbacks on their roster at the moment and none of them match up particularly well against do-it-all weapon Antonio Brown."
Baltimore Sun: 6 of 7 pick Steelers over Ravens
Last week: 5 of 7 picked Ravens over Bengals
Jeff Zrebiec (Steelers 27, Ravens 23): "Remember how much momentum meant last week? Even with a suspect secondary, the Ravens will cool down Ben Roethlisberger a little bit, but the Steelers will make all the key plays late and win another close one in the series."
Last week: Bengals 23, Ravens 20
Peter Schmuck (Ravens 26, Steelers 20): "The balanced Ravens offense will grind out a couple touchdowns and four field goals, and the pass rush will put just enough pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to keep him from keeping up.
Last week: Bengals 23, Ravens 20
ESPN.com: 10 of 13 pick Steelers over Ravens
Last week: 10 of 13 pick Ravens over Bengals
CBSSports.com: 5 of 7 pick Steelers over Ravens
Last week: 5 of 8 pick Ravens over Bengals
Pete Prisco: Steelers 28, Ravens 23
"The Steelers are coming off their offensive explosion last week behind Ben Roethlisberger. They seem to be getting it right. The Ravens are playing consecutive road games in the division, and they have not played great on the road. They blew out the Steelers earlier, but Pittsburgh gets even here."
Last week: Bengals 21, Ravens 17
ProFootballTalk.com: 1 of 2 pick Steelers over Ravens
Last week: 2 of 2 picked Ravens over Bengals
Mike Florio: Steelers 13, Ravens 10.
"The Steelers cap a three-game home stand with a win that keeps them very much alive for the division title. A loss would put them, as a practical matter, three games behind the Ravens with seven to play."
Last week: Ravens 24, Bengals 17
Michael David Smith: Ravens 24, Steelers 17
"This game will be closer than their Week Two meeting, but the Ravens will complete the season sweep of the Steelers."
Last week: Ravens 21, Bengals 20
NFL.com(Elliot Harrison): Steelers 24, Ravens 20
"Oh boy is this a crucial game. If the Ravens win, they sweep the all-important head-to-head series. If the host Steelers win, Baltimore falls to 2-3 in the AFC North. Obviously, this is a huge matchup for both teams. Given the way Ben Roethlisberger has played his year, I feel he'll have another solid performance for Pittsburgh, maybe 22 of 29 for 285 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The key is really this: Which Joe Flacco shows up? Check out the week-by-week passer rating for Baltimore's quarterback: 71.0 in Week 1, 109.3, 79.6, 137.4, 65.1, 146.0, 91.8 and 43.1 in Week 8. That's pretty much all over the map."
Last week: Bengals 24, Ravens 23
SportingNews.com(Vinnie Iyer): Steelers 23, Ravens 20
"It's rare to get teams playing each other under the lights twice, but The Peacock couldn't resist after The Eye made this its Thursday night opener. Pure hatred makes for pretty good prime-time drama. The Steelers have retribution on their mind after being swarmed in a rare blowout in Baltimore, and have some of that swagger back after rocking the Texans and Colts back to backup. They can forget about Ben Roethlisberger dropping another 500 yards and six TDs against the Ravens defense, but he should be a bit grittier and ball-secure at home over Joe Flacco on the road."
Last week: Ravens 20, Bengals 17
FoxSports.com(Peter Schrager): Steelers 24, Ravens 20
"The Ravens got the best of the Steelers in Week 2, but face Pittsburgh without their top cornerback on Sunday night. Jimmy Smith was having an All-Pro caliber start to the season, but suffered a mid-foot sprain in Cincinnati last week. The Ravens have just three healthy cornerbacks on their roster at the moment and none of them match up particularly well against do-it-all weapon Antonio Brown. It's Ravens-Steelers. You know it's going to be a one-possession game heading into the final frame. The way Roethlisberger's throwing the ball lately? I can't take Baltimore and that cornerback group against him on the road."
Last week: Ravens 28, Bengals 19
Who Is Ravens Midseason MVP?
Eight weeks through the season, the Ravens stand at 5-3.
Who do you think the most valuable player has been in getting the Ravens to this point, and in position to make a second-half run for a playoff berth?
SportsNation posted a poll this morning with five top candidates. Here are the very early results:
C.J. Mosley: 33 percent
Steve Smith Sr.: 31 percent
Justin Forsett: 19 percent
Joe Flacco: 10 percent
Jimmy Smith: 7 percent
What do you think? Agree that rookie Mosley is the MVP so far?
Smith Sr.: I Wanna To Be Like Antonio Brown When I Grow Up
Smith Sr. certainly has a healthy respect for Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
He might be a liiiiiitle bit biased, considering Smith Sr. has been on a life mission to prove that shorter pass catchers can have a big impact in a league that loves tall, big-bodied targets.
The 35-year-old veteran wants to emulate the youngster, who is nearly a decade younger.
"Oh man that kid. When I grow up I want to be like him," Smith said laughing, per ESPN's Scott Brown. "He's getting involved so early and [he's] so good that he's in that groove where you could throw him the ball in the parking lot [and] and he's going to catch it with one-hand, tip-toe, stay in bounds and score."
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Smith has "noticed" that seven of the top 10 receivers in the league are 6-foot or under. Brown (5-10, 186) is No. 2 on that list.
"The little guys are coming back to rule the world. We're coming back [and] we're here to stay," Smith said laughing. "That's the bottom line. The big guys you can throw it up to them but at the end of the day when you want to move the sticks you have to throw it to the little guys. We move the needle and I think Antonio is doing that."
- Roethlisberger was changing diapers and cleaning his kitchen less than 24 hours after a recording-breaking performance. He's trying to stay ground as he prepares for the Ravens. "That was last Sunday's game and it's in the rearview mirror," Roethlisberger said. "It was a fun win but it's Baltimore time and that's what the focus went to Monday morning." [ESPN]
- The Ravens' special teams unit is no longer among the league's most penalized groups. [The Baltimore Sun]
- The Ravens aren't the only ones to get an offensive pass interference penalty called on them (though none may have a had bigger impact than the one called on Smith Sr.).* *Over the first half of the season, 62 OPI flags have been thrown, a 44 percent jump from the 2013 season. [CSNBaltimore.com]
- Mike Moyock has extremely high praise for Mosley, saying he is playing at a Pro Bowl level and could have a Ray Lewis-like career. [NFL.com]