So, is this team actually all that good? We’re going to find out on Sunday night. The Ravens will be playing a huge game in Pittsburgh that could have enormous playoff and divisional impacts. If Pittsburgh wins, they will have righted the ship and could run away with the division. If Baltimore wins, they will have announced themselves as a legitimate contender and potentially thrown the Steelers a punch that they never recover from. After their performance on Sunday afternoon against the Broncos, there are reasons to be excited.
The Ravens overcame a scary start to the game where they looked like they might fall behind like they did against Cincinnati. However, Flacco and Mornhinweg offense answered the call, taking pressure off the defense before it pitched a shutout after the first quarter. The passing game continues to look efficient and effective, and if Alex Collins gets started – which I think he could against the Steelers – the unit as a whole could be very dangerous. By the way, I love Mark Andrews, and I think he is becoming a more explosive version of Dennis Pitta. Whether it’s this week or next, throwing Hayden Hurst into the mix will give Flacco significantly more weapons than he has ever had in his career. Personally, Flacco is gaining my trust back, too. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think he will reach the heights he’s on track for this season.
Of course, everything could come to a screeching halt this week. The Ravens won’t be phased by playing at Heinz Field but it will still be difficult, and I consider this a must-win for the dirty birds (Side note: why does it seem that all of the SNF games the past few years between these teams have been in Pittsburgh?). I truly believe that if the Ravens win this game they will win the division, as I simply don’t trust the Bengals to win as many games against the NFC South. But what do the Ravens have to do to get the job done?
Harbaugh’s team has been poor on the road in recent years, especially against quality teams. Still, Pittsburgh was reeling before knocking off the Bucs, and if Baltimore can get off to a quick start they may be able to leave the Steelers questioning their legitimacy again. I look for Flacco to take a deep shot to John Brown early and considering the swiss-cheese secondary that Pittsburgh has, I’ll go out on a limb and say they connect. To that point, this could be a statement game for the Ravens offense. I think they’ll need to put up 30 points to win, but I think they will. As I said, Alex Collins could take off against Pittsburgh, so long as the O-Line wins the battle up front.
You might be wondering why I haven’t spent much time talking about the defense. That’s because I think they will have a hard time stopping the Steelers’ passing attack. While Antonio Brown is certainly a menace, I think Brandon Carr will have fits with JuJu Smith-Schuster. The dude’s a stud. For that reason, the Ravens will need to neutralize James Conner and leave the Steelers unbalanced. Big Ben will make mistakes, as he always does, and the usually-opportunistic defense will have to take advantage. I look for Eric Weddle to make a big play Sunday, but at least one more will have to come from an unexpected source (Perhaps Za’Darius Smith or Timmy Williams). The Ravens will give up points, but if they force turnovers they can come out on top. I think they will that battle, and therefore will win the game.
Score: Ravens – 34, Steelers – 30