Ravens at Steelers Game Preview

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The Ravens are set to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET).

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*BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's next opponent. *

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2009 Rankings* *

Total Offense – 8th (375.1 ypg) Total Defense – 6th (304.2)

Rush Offense – 19th (110.2) Rush Defense – 1st (83.1)

Pass Offense – 6th (264.9) Pass Defense – T17th (221.1)

Points Per Game – 15th (22.5) Points Per Game – T10th (20.0)

Sizing Them Up

Last time the Ravens played the Mike Tomlin-coached Steelers, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't under center with concussion-related symptoms and safety Troy Polamalu's knee kept him from suiting up.

At least Roethlisberger will play this Sunday, leading an offense that has basically abandoned the pass in recent weeks.

"Big Ben's biggest weapons are wideouts Hines Ward, who leads the team with 83 receptions (1,069 yards and six touchdowns), and Santonio Holmes, whose 1,157 yards (73 catches, three touchdowns) paces the Steelers. Tight end Heath Miller also gets involved heavily, as he boasts 68 grabs for 698 yards and five scores.

If the Steelers do run the ball, it's Rashard Mendenhall getting the call. His 205 carries for 978 yards and six touchdowns are solid numbers, but when one looks at the 4.8 yards he averages per carry, it is more impressive.

Defensively, Polamalu is not expected to play, which changes what the Steelers can do. The versatile Polamalu is a player teams must account for on every play, but that's not to say there are no other playmakers on the unit.

Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have combined for 19.5 sacks on the year, and four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Casey Hampton anchors the NFL's top run defense.

What's Up?* *

Teresa Varley of Steelers.com writes that it's not looking good for Polamalu's participation.

Safety Troy Polamalu did not practice on Wednesday, and when asked if he would practice at all the remainder of the week, didn't seem positive.

[The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Scott Brown](http://blog.triblive.com/view-from-the-press-box/2009/12/24/big-ben-steelers-not-a-run-first-team-anymore/?utmsource=feedburner&utmmedium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed: triblive/blog/ViewFromThePressBox (View from the Press Box Blog)) delves into the pass-happy Steelers' revised offense.

"The Steelers are now a pass-first team and fans that pine for the days when Pittsburgh pounded opposing defenses with the run need to accept if not embrace the change."

There is going to be a shakeup at corner for Pittsburgh, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Tomlin yesterday informed starting cornerback William Gay that his role would change for this week against Baltimore, at least."

Awards

Offensive – Roethlisberger is single-handedly winning games for the Steelers. Just witness his 503-yard passing day last week against the Green Bay Packers, where he led an 11-play, 86-yard clinching drive that culminated in a 19-yard touchdown dart to rookie Mike Wallace with no time left on the clock.

Defensive – Woodley has really come on as a defensive force this year. He's gone seven games with at least a half-sack, and he is fifth on the team with 51 tackles. With teams worrying about blocking the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Harrison, Woodley is cleaning up.

Emerging Star

WR Mike Wallace

An unheralded third-round draft pick, Wallace ranks second among all AFC rookies with 609 receiving yards and fourth with 34 receptions. Wallace had a career day in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he caught seven passes for 102 yards.

Key Matchups

Ravens OT Michael Oher vs. Steelers OLB James Harrison

Back in November, Oher didn't see much of Harrison because they were playing on opposite sides. That could change this weekend if Jared Gaither can't play left tackle. Harrison is low to the ground and extremely powerful, so Oher must get his hands on him and keep his knees bent and feet moving.

Ravens CB Chris Carr vs. Steelers WRs Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward

This will mark Carr's initial insertion into the starting lineup, and he has a pair of tough receivers to cover. Holmes is a speedster, and Ward is about as rough as they come. Carr has made some plays this year as both a slot and regular corner, so he'll have the benefit of the sideline to help him.

Quotable

Tomlin on whether he is happy the way his team has reacted to "unleashing the fury in December": "Collectively, in terms of the entire body of work, absolutely not. I think that's pretty evident. We haven't won a bunch of games in December, but December is not over. The guys will continue to fight, as will I, and we'll see how the dust settles."

Roethlisberger on if this is the best matchup in the NFL right now:"It's a lot of fun. I think the league enjoys this to a point, but they'd rather see a high-scoring game, and it seems like whenever we play, it never is. But it's always fun for me as a competitor. I love when you compete against great teams and great players. I enjoy this all the way until Monday and Tuesday, when I can barely walk. I enjoy playing against Ray and Ed and those guys, because they are so good and truly bring out the best in all of us."

Duff's Take

This game is hard to call. Typically, a Ravens/Steelers matchup would feature smash-mouth ground games and defenses bearing their teeth.

Well, the defenses are still there – even though injuries to Polamalu and Ed Reed (groin) could keep them out – but the offenses for each team have been unpredictable week-to-week.

The Ravens posed 308 rushing yards two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions, and then Joe Flacco tosses four touchdowns the next Sunday against the Bears. The Steelers have abandoned the run recently, with Roethlisberger airing it out.

Whatever the case, the Ravens must get pressure on Roethlisberger, just like every week, to help a depleted secondary not have to cover for too long. When that happens, receivers have more opportunities to get open. Of course, bringing Roethlisberger is hard to bring down, but just getting in his face and forcing a throw out of bounds is just like a sack.

For the Ravens' offense, the turf at Heinz Field is always nasty, which can benefit a physical running attack. Baltimore has the horses in Ray RiceWillis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, and it would be a good thing to use them.

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