The Pittsburgh Steelers visit M&T Bank Stadium in Week 9. Can the Ravens sweep their arch rivals for the first time since 2015? RSR staff predict what we’ll see here…
The Steelers lead the regular season series between these rivals, 24-21. The Ravens have won four of the last five played in Baltimore and enter the game as 3-point favorites, yet they’ve lost three of their last four games in 2018 while Pittsburgh is riding a three-game winning streak, beating opponents on average by 15+ points.
But this is the Ravens v. Steelers, a series that has featured 13 games decided by three points or less since 2008, while 17 of the last 21 contests have been one-score games. When this one is over those numbers will bump to 14 and 18 of 22, respectively.
· In 22 games against the Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 35 passes, 1.6 TDs, 247.5 yards and a passer rating of 84.7. All of these numbers will jump by 25%. His final stat line will read: 31 of 44, 310 yards, 2 TDs and a passer rating of 105.3.
· With so much attention directed towards Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster posts a big day with 8 catches for 125 yards and a score. Jesse James will haul in the other TD pass from Roethlisberger from 12 yards out.
· James Connor will cap the Steelers scoring with a TD run although he’ll find the host defense to be anything but hospitable. Connor will rush 20 times for just 58 yards.
· During his career Joe Flacco’s best month of the season is November when he’s posted a win-loss mark of 29-12 and a passer rating of 90.4. Despite a patchwork offensive line, Flacco will eclipse that rating v. the Steelers. His numbers will match those of Roethlisberger. The Ravens will need all they can get from Joe as the running game goes nowhere, averaging less than 3 yards per attempt.
· Twenty penalties will be accepted in total, the last of which will be a DPI against Jimmy Smith inside the Ravens 20 to set up a game winning score for Pittsburgh. Terrible Towels will be swirling at The Bank by 4PM on Sunday as Roethlisberger completes the late, game-clinching drive.
Steelers 27 Ravens 24
— The Saints and Panthers have provided a blueprint to attack the Ravens. Spread out the defensive line to keep the Ravens from bottling up the run and then attack them in the middle of the field. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has two tight ends – Jesse James and Vance McDonald – that can provide challenges for the Ravens linebackers. The Steelers will try to exploit those matchups.
— Pittsburgh running back James Conner has turned the corner with his development and has three straight 100-yard games. Conner was held to 19 yards in the first meeting against the Ravens, but linebacker C.J. Mosley has missed practice time this week and that could hamper the defense. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale has spent parts of the week analyzing what Connor is doing better since that first game. One of the keys is the Steelers have simply gotten healthier on the offensive line. Connor will make an impact but his streak of 100-yard games comes to an end.
— John Brown had a huge game against the Steelers in Week 4 with three catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers will make some adjustments to keep him from getting behind the secondary. Joe Flacco will take his shots, but the Steelers cornerbacks and safeties have played much better over the recent winning streak. That unit has risen to 16th in the league against the pass.
— The Ravens’ running attack has been a disappointment all the season. They are the ONLY team in the league not to have a run for 20 yards or more. Alex Collins has missed practice this week with a foot injury. As a result, newly acquired Ty Montgomery might get an opportunity. Still, if Flacco has to throw the ball 40 times, the Ravens are in trouble.
Since the Ravens took down Pittsburgh 26-14 in Week 4, the teams have gone in different directions. The Steelers have won three straight games and sit atop the AFC North. Meanwhile, the Ravens have lost three of four and are mired in third place in the division. Pittsburgh will carry that momentum into this game and put the Ravens’ playoff hopes on life support.
Steelers 28 Ravens 24
In my predictions, I’m going to assume that at least two of: C.J. Mosley, Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey – will be on the field. If only one of them plays, reduce my optimism by 50%. If none of them play? Yeah, this could get ugly.
That said, let’s put on our purple shades and imagine all three running out of the tunnel ready to stomp some Squealer ass on Sunday.
After a week where every bounce went against the Ravens (the Weddle tipped pass that ended up as a TD, the D.J. Moore bobbled pitch that bounced right back into his gut), the universe course corrects. Two Fat Ben (yes, he’s skinny now, I know. Whatever. He’s forever Fat Ben to me.) passes are tipped and intercepted, with one going the other way for six, c/o the much-maligned Jimmy Smith. Meanwhile, another Flacco batted pass flutters harmlessly to the turf.
Those bounces are quite useful, but not completely necessary. This is still a different team at home, and they get up not only against their rivals, but when they are faced with adversity. Word is Harbaugh was a bit testy with the media this week, unhappy with the stories about his job security floating around. As much as we fans like to get on John (and boy, do we), his players unquestionably go to battle for him. They’ll want to quiet the rumors of possible regime change during the bye week, and head in on a high note.
What it will ultimately mean for the rest of the season – and Harbaugh’s future – is anybody’s guess. But for this week at least, they bounce back nicely.
Ravens 30 Steelers 17
The Ravens play what many are calling a season defining game. However, the bottom line is if you’re playing that type of game in week nine you’re in trouble, and the Ravens are. These are two teams trending in different directions. After a promising start to the season John Harbaugh’s squad has played sloppy, uninspired football. After a sluggish start the Steelers have righted the ship and are trending up.
With all that said the Ravens are desperate. Jobs are on the line and I think you’ll see a sense of urgency this week. Considering that and the fact they’re at home, they squeak out the win.
Ravens 27 Steelers 24
Ravens fans seem to be at a crossroads. Is this a playoff team? Is this team good enough to compete in a surprisingly competitive AFC? What is the team’s future? Is the last we have seen from the Harbaugh-Flacco era? Some of that might be answered this week. After an embarrassing performance in Carolina, the Ravens look to rebound versus a rejuvenated Pittsburgh squad. Depending on the outcome and overall play of the game, I think we will begin to see the future of the Ravens on display.
I suspect Flacco will have a decent game against a weak Pittsburgh secondary, and I expect him to utilize his talent at Tight End allow him to gain some trust and rhythm back in the offense. Willie Snead should have a bounce back game and actually operate like the slot receiver he should be, and John Brown will prove to be too much for Joe Haden or whatever corner they decide to put on him (they have been a mess there for quite some time, so maybe Mike Hilton? Who knows). The offensive line will have an up and down day, but will overall win the day. I am not sure how much Ty Montgomery will be utilized, but he might suddenly take over Javorius Allen‘s role, and maybe even take some snaps away from Snead in the slot.
A true weakness for the Ravens is the inability to out-scheme teams. Marty Mornhinweg has an inability to get the best out of his players, and just tries to force “game plans” that don’t work. Hopefully when Decosta has full control, he focuses on bringing in a staff that cares about the current trends in the NFL.
Top performers: Flacco 24/40 320 yards, 1 TD. Alex Collins 20 rushes, 85 yards, 1 TD, John Brown 4 catches, 110 yards and 1 TD
With a hurting defense, with key pieces such as Mosley not being 100% , Marlon Humphrey having a leg injury, and Tim Williams now being in a walking boot, this could get ugly. Pittsburgh’s offense is clicking again, and that can only mean bad things for Baltimore. Ben will have his way for most of the day, throwing for 300+ yards and 2 TDs. While I expect the Ravens to shut down James Conner, he might beat them in the screen game, which will only further tire out the defense. If we have one coach on this team that actually seems to know how to use players to make the team better, it’s Don Martindale, but he might be at wits end with a team that is using one-trick ponies such as run stuffer Brandon Williams, and aging Eric Weddle, and a hapless Tony Jefferson (overpaid! anyone else want to see Chuck Clark play?).
Can anyone tell me why the Ravens weren’t sellers at the trade deadline?
Steelers 35 Ravens 20
In recent years it seems the Steelers start off struggling and by mid-season find their footing with a potent offense. This year appears to be no different and the Ravens were fortunate to get the road game out of the way early with them. The Ravens, on the other hand, have started off hot only to let us fans down when the games matter the most. This game has major playoff implications which typically isn’t the case this early in the season.
Which Ravens will show up? That goes for both sides of the ball. The last 2 seasons have started off with good defense that seemed to wear down as the season went on. The offense, on the other hand, improved throughout the season. Are the Ravens amidst a collapse of the entire season? I think this game is a chance to prove they are not after two straight losses.
Beyond this game determining the success of this season, it possibly determines jobs that are on the line. The Ravens find a way to get it done at home on Sunday.
Ravens 23 Steelers 20
The gambling public continues to love the Ravens. In fact, the aggregate line (best prices from a cross section of more than 20 online books indicate the Ravens have approximately a 56.5% chance to win this game with juice factored out.
As Ravens fans we can’t figure out why the punters are so optimistic through all of the awful injury news. The OL has a spate on injuries, including the most critical to Ronnie Stanley. It’s not even clear how the Ravens will cobble together 7 linemen healthy enough to be active (the minimum any NFL team activates for a game), much less play effective as a unit. Beyond that, the secondary is banged up, and CJ Mosley appears to be playing hurt.
With both teams healthy, the Ravens are the better team, but this will be a huge test for the coaching staff and leadership to pull this team together for one of the big tests to their survival and that of Joe Flacco.
To win, they’ll need:
— Scheme creativeness and aggressiveness, particularly on offense—The entire playbook needs to be open for this one and the Ravens need to make use of their ability to convert short yardage by sneaks to treat 3rd and 1 like 2nd and 1.
— Game management that does not fail the team as it did against the Saints (challenges lost early)
— On-field leadership to maintain the sense of urgency
— Crowd support we have not heard to date due to weather
I’m not going to make predictions about individual performances, but this is a game where “everybody” (in terms of the vast majority of written/spoken words and pundit predictions) seems to be expecting a Ravens loss. As a contrarian, that’s the time to be on the other side. The Ravens deliver a convincing performance on offense and defense to again frustrate the Steelers:
Ravens 27 Steelers 17