What: Ravens (3-3) at Steelers (1-4).
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Five questions that will help determine the outcome:
1. Which quarterback will play better, Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger?
Neither is having his best season, and both are playing behind suspect offensive lines. Steelers-Ravens games tend to be close and low scoring. Both quarterbacks are capable of making a clutch game-winning play. However, Flacco and Roethlisberger must also avoid making the big mistake, particularly in the fourth quarter. Flacco has already thrown eight interceptions, and the Steelers still have defensive playmakers like safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Flacco usually plays well in Pittsburgh, but Roethlisberger knows how badly the Steelers need this one. Both teams need a solid performance from their quarterback.
2. Can either team make a running game reappear?
Both teams should be embarrassed by their inability to run the football. The Ravens are next-to-last in yards per attempts (2.7), while the Steelers are only a tad better (3.1 yards). The Steelers have a promising young running back in Le’Veon Bell, and Packers rookie Eddie Lacy found some holes against the Ravens in Week 6. Ravens running back Ray Rice is having a disappointing season, with people questioning his health, his ability to elude tackles, and the mileage on his legs. This would be a nice spot for Rice to silence his critics. But if the Ravens’ offensive line doesn’t play better, there won’t be any room for Rice or Bernard Pierce to run.
3. Will this game turn into a nightmare for Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum?
Beachum will be making just his second career start. Can he really be expected to keep Terrell Suggs away from Roethlisberger? Even if Beachum gets double-team help, it won’t be easy. And the more attention Suggs draws, the easier it will be for Elvis Dumervil to create pass-rushing havoc. Roethlisberger has already been sacked 18 times. He will be looking to get rid of the ball quickly, because Suggs and Dumervil will be coming.
4. Which wide receiver will have the better game, Torrey Smith or Antonio Brown?
Smith was contained (one catch, 12 yards) against the Packers, but he is having a superb season. So is Brown, Roethlisberger’s go-to receiver, with at least nine catches in each of the last three games. In a game like this, neither team can afford their No. 1 receiver to be silent.
5. Are the Steelers good enough to be a factor in the AFC North?
A victory would leave the Steelers and Ravens tied in the loss column. However, if the Steelers lose, and fall to 1-5, it’s hard to see them salvaging any playoff hopes. The Ravens have a chance to deliver a crushing blow to the Steelers. However, being desperate figures to make the Steelers more difficult to beat.