Week 15: Steelers-Ravens Preview

Dec. 13, 2008, 5:28 PM


Game Info:

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. (ET)
Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71,008) • Baltimore, Md.
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Phil Simms (color )


Ravens Offense vs. Steelers Defense: The Steelers have the NFL’s top ranked defense mainly because of the way they disguise their blitzes. Dick Lebeau’s 3-4 defensive scheme works very well with the types of linebackers Pittsburgh has. Outside linebacker James Harrison has an amazing combination of speed and strength for his size. He has used that combination to rack up 15 sacks this season, which ranks 3rd in the NFL.  LaMarr Woodley has also had a very productive season so far, totaling 11.5 sacks. All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu patrols the secondary and can change games very quickly with his big hits and timely interceptions. The Ravens will try to pound it right at the Steelers with Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee (Ray Rice is going to be a game-time decision with a left shin contusion), which has worked for the majority of the season. It will be up to Joe Flacco to make smart decisions when he feels the pressure. It’s not a question of if Flacco gets hit, it’s a question of when and how hard.

Steelers Offense vs. Ravens Defense: The Ravens defense is filled with talented athletes who can make plays on any down. Quarterback Ben Roethisberger is going to have to deal with the same types of zone blitzes Joe Flacco will see. Tight end Heath Miller could see quite a few balls thrown his way because of the limited time Roethisberger will have to throw. One matchup I am looking forward to watching is Pittsburgh wide-out Santonio Holmes against Ravens corner Fabian Washington. Holmes is a big play receiver with tremendous speed. When the Ravens play at home, statistically, they are the NFL’s best defense. Look for that trend to continue on Sunday.

The Prediction: Never before have the Ravens faced Pittsburgh this late in the year with so much on the line. It will be a real test for them against a hard-hitting, intelligent Steelers squad. My gut says go with the Ravens because they are at home. But the Steelers have won some big road games this year, and Big Ben has the edge on Joe Flacco in terms of experience. I think Flacco makes one too many turnovers…even if it is just one  STEELERS: 23-14


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