The 3-3 Baltimore Ravens travel to archrival Pittsburgh this week to face the 1-4 Steelers Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
Last week the Ravens' offense failed in their imitation of a high school JV team, unfortunately spoiling a stellar effort from their defense against the Packers, which resulted in a 19-17 loss at home.
The Steelers have struggled all season, but did finally pick up their first win last week, 19-6 over the Jets.
Both teams are looking upward toward first place in the AFC North. Both teams can’t run the ball and are contemplating serious schematic overhauling. I ate lunch at Reggie’s today instead of Monks.
Luckily, our assumption can remain that these teams still despise one another and are looking to take out their aggression the way only these bruise making battles can unfold. If they come out and perform a 44 person choreographed dance number scored by Hanz Zimmer for three hours, then I’m throwin’ in the towel.
Here are some keys to the game.
Line woes but Ben goes
The Steelers' offensive line has been subpar this season both due to injuries and disappointing play from former high draft picks. They lost Pro Bowl starting center Maurkice Pouncey for the season in Week 1, then traded for Arizona tackle Levi Brown, only to watch him go down prior to playing a snap. They’ve also replaced former starting LT Mike Adams with Kelvin Beachum due to performance.
Despite these struggles and boasting the 32nd ranked rushing attack (B'more is 26, pop the champagne!), Ben Roethlisberger has still been able to move the ball through the air and utilize speed receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
He’s completing 66 percent of his throws and averaging 299 yards passing per game.
The strength of the Ravens' defense has been their pass rush, and they’ll need to get to Roethlisberger early and often so he can’t burn them through the air. Ben has given Baltimore fits through the years extending plays when the pocket collapses and finding eventual wide open receivers for big gains. If he’s on the ground, that won’t be possible.
You can do it!
As Ravens fans, we’ve spent the better part of this season patiently waiting for something to click on offense to get them moving downfield cohesively and sustaining drives for longer than three plays.
Instead, they’ve consistently lost first down, racked up inexcusable pre-snap penalties, shown an inability to run the ball, and made punter Sam Koch, of all players, most in need of an ice bath on Mondays.
Heading into Week 7, the wait continues, and Baltimore must find a way to move the ball, whether it involves switching out of zone run blocking, utilizing five receiver sets and short throws, or reconsidering the need for an invented coaching position known as ‘run game coordinator.’
How does that guy walk through the building without being hit with tomatoes? Does he collect his paychecks wearing a Matt Cavanaugh mask?
What does it all mean?
As the old cliché goes, anytime two rivals of this magnitude go head to head, you toss out the records and stats and numbers, and watch in excited horror as the hits and bodies pile up like a burning tire yard fire.
For Pittsburgh, a win this week legitimately puts them right back in the conversation for the AFC North race, as right now it appears that the division winner will end up having at most ten wins.
For the Ravens, its now gut check time. With the bye next week, and Cleveland and Cincinnati on the horizon, a win this week is crucial to keep the wheels from disappointingly coming off a season where they have their best defense in years and seemingly enough talent on offense to remain a contender for the crown.
You know Art Jones and Terrell Suggs won't be going down without an all-out war that leaves them buried three centuries beneath Heinz Field. Will everyone else be onboard as well?