Ravens talk about rivalry with Steelers
It's time once again to peer into the crystal ball and see what it envisions on Sunday at Heinz Field, other than a whole lot of Terrible Towels:
1. Ray Rice will have at least 20 touches.
Nothing has been easy or pretty for Ray Rice this year, but the Ravens still need the ball in his hands. The Ravens have won 20 straight games when he has at least 25 touches. They are 40-12 when he has at least 20. Rice carried 20 times for 40 yards at Heinz Field last year.
2. Neither team will gain 120 yards rushing. ....
Any way you cut it, these have been two of the least effective rushing teams in the league. The Ravens average 2.7 yards a carry, second-worst in the league. The Steelers average 61 rushing yards a game, second worst in the league.
3. ... but the Ravens will have more rushing yards.
The Ravens couldn't run against the Bills' low-rated defense, so why should anything be different against the Steelers' 22nd-ranked run defense? The Ravens insist they have made some tweaks to the blocking schemes this week, and Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are way overdue to break out.
4. A Raven other than Torrey Smith will have a pass play of 30 yards or more.
Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Dallas Clark and Marlon Brown all had receptions of more than 30 yards against the Packers last week. The Steelers are likely to focus on shutting down Smith, understandably, but the big plays will be out there for someone else to make.
5. The Steelers will sack Joe Flacco up the middle. ...
Joe Flacco has been sacked 19 times this season, with pressure frequently coming right up the middle. You can bet the Steelers have watched plenty of that film. This is a copycat league, and the Steelers, who only have seven sacks through five games, will dial up some inside stunts and schemes to find openings up the middle.
6 . ... but the Ravens will register more sacks.
Ben Roethlisberger might be the best in the business at fighting off sacks and extending plays, but he has still been dropped 18 times in five games. The Ravens pass rush, off the edge and up the gut, is a huge mismatch against a porous, makeshift Steelers offensive line.
7. The Ravens will win the turnover battle.
Pittsburgh did not create a turnover in its first four games before coming up with two interceptions last week. The Ravens have had their turnover issues as well (minus-3 differential), but they have been more opportunistic, and Roethlisberger has lost four fumbles in five games this season.
8. Antonio Brown will have the most receptions.
Brown ranks second in the league in receptions (41), and the Steelers will once again look to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker. Todd Haley's system uses a lot of bubble screens and quick slants, which drives some Steelers fans crazy but can come in handy with a porous offensive line that doesn't give the quarterback much time to throw.
9. There will be a missed field-goal attempt.
Heinz Field is where field-goal attempts often go to die. The weather, the swirling winds at the open end of the stadium and the chewed-up turf all can make life miserable for a kicker. Justin Tucker was 30-for-33 last season, but one of his misses was at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham has been perfect this season (10-for-10), but that streak could end.
10. Ravens 19, Steelers 17
The Steelers are playing at home, and at 1-4 they are definitely the more desperate team. But they have more issues than the rebuilt Ravens do, and Joe Flacco has proved unflappable at Heinz Field, authoring two last-minute, game-winning drives in the past three years. Both offenses have major problems, but the Ravens defense will come up with a few huge plays and the Ravens will escape with the win.