Game preview: Steelers at Ravens

Game preview: Steelers at Ravens
November 27, 2013, 9:30 am
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How are the Ravens prepping for the Steelers?

Game preview

What: Steelers (5-6) at Ravens (5-6)

When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m.

Where: M & T Bank Stadium

TV: NBC

Five questions that need answering

1. Which quarterback will play better, Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger?

Flacco’s complaints about the Wildcat offense drew attention this week. But how he performs Thursday remains far more important. Flacco is coming off a solid game against the Jets, but the Ravens need more consistency from Flacco to make the playoffs. Roethlisberger has been very good recently, overcoming the distraction caused by rumors that he would seek a trade after the season. Both of these quarterbacks can excel at crunch time, and Steelers-Ravens games are usually close. The better quarterback will probably be the winning quarterback.

[RELATED: Do the Ravens need more Tyrod Taylor?]

2. Can the Ravens contain the red hot wide receiver Antonio Brown?

Brown is having a brilliant season that not enough people are talking about. He leads the NFL in receptions with 80, and is second in receiving yards (1,044) trailing only Calvin Johnson of the Lions. No Steelers receiver has ever led the league in receptions, but Brown has become Roethlisberger’s go-to guy. Ravens corners Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, and Corey Graham have all played well recently. But Brown beat Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, one of the league’s best, for a 41-yard touchdown on Sunday. Brown is going to make catches, but the Ravens need to keep him from making big plays.

3. Can the Ravens’ pass rush stymie Roethlisberger’s creativity?

The Ravens are tied for the league lead with 37 sacks.  Roethlisberger has been sacked 36 times, third most in the NFL. However, when the Ravens get to Roethlisberger, they still have to bring him down.

“He is the hardest quarterback to sack in the league,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Many of Roethlisberger’s signature plays occur after he is flushed out of the pocket and adlibs. With him, a play isn’t over until it’s over. Can the Ravens pressure Roethlisberger? Yes. Can they force him to commit turnovers, or will he burn them with sandlot–type plays? The answer to that question will be key.

[RELATED: Ravens' red zone efficiency not what it was last year]

4. Will the resurgence of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu’s continue this week?

Polamalu had a sack and forced two fumbles Sunday against the Browns. He has plenty of mileage on him at age 32, but Polamalu also has uncanny instincts. Playing two games in five days could be tough on Polamalu, and when he doesn’t play well, the Steelers’ defense isn’t the same. However, Polamalu has made game-changing plays against the Ravens before, and Flacco has already thrown 14 interceptions, a career-high. Polamalu will be looking to increase that number.

5. Does playing the Steelers negate home field advantage for the Ravens?

Since becoming Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh has lost three of five games against the Steelers at M & T Bank Stadium. That goes against the Ravens’ superb home record since Harbaugh took over. Ravens-Steelers games are unique. They are always emotional, usually close, and home field just doesn’t seem to matter that much. The crowd will be electric, but the Ravens can’t rely on being at home. They will need one of their better performances this season to win.