Ravens' rookies are learning about rivalry with Steelers
Three key matchups to watch Sunday in Ravens vs. Steelers
1. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Steelers secondary
The Ravens are struggling to run the football, so it’s hard to see them winning without Flacco playing well. He is coming off his best statistical game of the season, with a quarterback rating of 112.6 against the Packers. Flacco appears to be building better rapport with Tandon Doss and Dallas Clark, while the return of Jacoby Jones gives Flacco another deep threat. However, the Steelers have a smart, veteran secondary led by safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, and cornerback Ike Taylor. The Ravens think they can move the ball through the air, but can Flacco do it without Polamalu, Clark, or Taylor making a big play? Flacco has already thrown eight interceptions. If he leaves Pittsburgh with 10 or more, the Ravens probably leave with a loss.
2. Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley vs. Ravens right tackle Michael Oher
Woodley already has four sacks, and is playing at a high level. It’s not like the Ravens have done a great job protecting Flacco. He has already been sacked 19 times including five times against the Packers. Woodley lines up opposite the right tackle, meaning he will be Oher’s main assignment. It’s one of the toughest battles Oher will face this season.
3. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith vs. Taylor
Smith said earlier this week that he had never faced anyone who talked more trash than Taylor. Just because the Steelers are 1-4 does not mean Taylor will be quiet Sunday. The bigger question is whether Taylor can silence Smith. Against the Packers, Smith was contained (one catch, 12 yards) for the first time this season. Expect Flacco to look for Smith early, hoping to get him in the flow. Also look for Smith to test Taylor deep at least once. Taylor is still one of the top corners in the NFL, but he is 33 years old, and Smith is a flier.