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Inside the Steelers: Ravens-Steelers Wild Card Preview

Fresh off of being crowned AFC North Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in the 2015 AFC Wild Card Playoffs. The Steelers previously defeated the Ravens in all three match-ups, besting the birdies in 2002, 2009, and 2011.

The biggest concern heading into the game for Pittsburgh was the status of Le’Veon Bell, who suffered a hyper-extension of his knee in the game vs Cincinnati. Bell seemed to be improving all week, but he was ruled out late Friday afternoon.

Ben Roethlisberger finished the season tied with Drew Brees for the NFL Passing Title, as both gunslingers had 4,952 yards. Big Ben also had 32 touchdowns to only nine interceptions.

Le’Veon Bell was the team’s MVP, as his dynamic play on the ground and through the air continued to amaze with each passing week. Bell finished 2nd to DeMarco Murray with 1,361 yards rushing on the year and eight touchdowns. Bell also had 83 catches for 854 yards and another three scores. His ability too pick up the blitz in passing situations has been a staple as well. Since Bell won’t play, Josh Harris will get the nod, and newly signed Ben Tate will look to contribute in any way he can. Dri Archer will get some looks, too.

In the air, Antonio Brown had a season of the ages. His 129 catches on the season were the second most in NFL history. Brown’s 1,698 yards receiving also led the league, and he found the endzone 13 times. Markus Wheaton played well in his 2nd season, netting a line of 53/644/3. Rookie Martavis Bryant was outstanding with 26 catches for 549 yards and eight scores. Lance Moore contributed sparingly. Tight End Heath Miller was 3rd on the team with 66 receptions for 761 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, the Steelers struggled out of the gate, but have improved, especially over the past three games. CB Willie Gay has three pick-sixes on the year, and Brice McCain has stepped his game up, too. SS Troy Polamalu has been out with injury, but will return to action for the game. Will Allen has played well in his absence. FS Mike Mitchell really excelled in the 2nd half of the season.

On the defensive line, Cam Heyward is becoming one of the NFL’s best at his position. Rookie Stephon Tuitt has gotten better each week. The staple of the Steelers has always been it’s linebackers. In the middle, Lawrence Timmons is one of the best in the game. Ryan Shazier has been in and out all season with injuries alongside him. When Shazier’s been out, the mix of Sean Spence, Arthur Moats, and Vince Williams have played admirably. All three players have position flexibility. On the outside, James Harrison continues to terrorize opposing QB’s, and every now and then, Jason Worilds shows up. Jarvis Jones has been inconsistent.

My guess is the Steelers plan to convert Ryan Shazier to SS to replace Polamalu when he retires. He has the same build and speed as Polamalu, and could make the conversion easily in my opinion. The Steelers have a history in doing this, as they converted an All-American linebacker from UCLA into one of the games greatest at SS. That guy happened to be Carnell Lake.

On the Ravens side, Joe Flacco has been up and down all year. He finished the season with 3,986 yards passing, with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His biggest problem has been consistency.

His favorite target on the year has been Steve Smith, who grabbed 79 catches for 1,065 yards and six scores. Torrey Smith has also come up big with 49 receptions for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. TE Owen Daniels is 3rd on the team with 48 catches for 527 yards and four TD’s.

On the ground, Justin Forsett has been the man, as he led the team with 1,266 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He’s also versatile in the passing game with 44 catches for 263 yards.

Defensively, the Ravens know how to get too the quarterback. Elvis Dumervil has 17 sacks on the year. Terrell Suggs has 12. The Ravens aren’t exactly adept at taking the ball away via the air. Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.

Prediction:  Heinz Field has been a House of Horror’s for the Ravens in the playoffs, and Saturday night, the result will be the same, as Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game will prove to be too much for the Ravens secondary to contain. Ohio State proved in it’s last two games that they are much more than just Braxton Miller. The Steelers will show they won’t be affected by the loss of Bell. It’s “Next man up.” The Steelers’ defense is improving as well, and with Baltimore having offensive line injuries, this could get ugly. Steelers 27 Ravens 13

 

Team Rankings

Total Offense: Steelers rank 2nd / Ravens rank 12th

Rushing: Steelers rank 16th / Ravens rank 8th

Passing: Steelers rank 2nd / Ravens rank 13th

Scoring: Steelers rank 7th / Ravens rank 8th

 

Total Defense: Steelers rank 18th / Ravens rank 8th

Rushing: Steelers rank 6th / Ravens rank 4th

Passing: Steelers rank 27th / Ravens rank 23rd

Scoring: Steelers rank 18th / Ravens rank 6th

 

Game Information

AFC Wild Card Playoffs

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) vs Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game-time: Saturday, January 3rd at 8:15 PM

TV: NBC

Weather at Kickoff: 43 degrees with an 80% chance of rain.

Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-3)

 

Game Notes

* Steelers lead the overall series against the Ravens at 21-17. Steelers lead the series playing at home at 12-7.

* Steelers are 3-0 in the Post-Season vs the Ravens, winning in 2002, 2009, and 2011.

* Last Regular-Season Meeting: Nov. 2, 2014 at Pittsburgh-  Pittsburgh 43 Baltimore 23

* Ben Roethlisberger needs two pass completions to join Terry Bradshaw (261) as the second quarterback in Steelers history with at least
250 in a postseason career and 14 to surpass Bradshaw for the most in Steelers postseason history.

* Le’Veon Bell with 100 rushing yards, would become the ninth Steelers running back in team history to record a 100-yard rushing game in the postseason (18th occurrence).

* Antonio Brown needs forty receiving yards to tally 200 in his postseason career.

* James Harrison needs a half-sack to tally his seventh sack in postseason history.

 

Injury Report (1/2/2015)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Out: RB Le’Veon Bell (knee)

Doubtful: 

Questionable: 

Probable: T Mike Adams (illness), LB James Harrison (illness), QB Landry Jones (illness), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), TE Michael Palmer (groin), S Troy Polamalu (knee), QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related), CB Ivan Taylor (shoulder, forearm)

 

Baltimore Ravens

Out: LB Arthur Brown (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot, ankle), T Eugene Monroe (ankle)

Doubtful:

Questionable: 

Probable: DE Chris Canty (ankle, thigh), TE Owen Daniels (not injury related)

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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