Our weekly look at the Ravens' matchup from a fantasy football perspective...
Torrey Smith - The ex-Terp had his first clunker of the season last week with one reception for 12 yards against the Packers. History suggest Smith is due for another subpar outing in Week 7. In four career games against Pittsburgh, the speedster is averaging 2.3 receptions for 27.8 yards with one total touchdown in that span. Led by corner Ike Taylor, this year's Steelers are allowing the ninth fewest points to fantasy receivers. Always a threat for a long scoring strike, Smith remains no less than a top-20 option this season, but this week he's closer to a WR3 option.
As for Joe Flacco's other targets including Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson, look elsewhere for help. Neither Clark or Dickson have real cache as is and Pittsburgh allows the fifth fewest points to fantasy tight ends. Brown and Jones are touchdown dependent, hardly ideal in a game that could land in the 17-14 range.
From Rotoworld's Evan Silva: "Based on his game tape and performance, I think it's safe to say Ray Rice is no more than 80% of the back he was two years ago. Slipping O-Line play has only exacerbated the issue. Rice still has at least 16 touches in all but one game this year, keeping him on the RB2 radar against Pittsburgh's No. 22 run defense. Just don't be surprised if the Ravens start giving Bernard Pierce more runs. Rice seems already to be wearing down at age 26, and 23-year-old Pierce is noticeably more effective in terms of tackle breaking and swallowing up blocked yards. Pierce is a back to target in Dynasty leagues."
In nine career games against the Steelers, Rice has four touchdowns while averaging 88.9 yards from scrimmage and less than three receptions. Only owners blessed with other high-end options can sit Rice even in the likely low-scoring game. Only owners with truly limited options should consider Pierce this week.
Joe Flacco - There is no statistical reason for hope this week. Pittsburgh allows the fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks. Only once has a QB thrown for more than 250 yards against this yeear's Steel Curtain. The Steelers have surrendered just four touchdown passes in five games. However, dig a little deeper into those numbers. Pittsburgh hasn't exactly faced stellar passing attacks (Titans, Bengals, Bears, Vikings, Jets) or a murderous row of quarterbacks. The thing is Baltimore's passing attack outside of Torrey Smith cannot be trusted and we noted his struggled against the Steelers. Flacco remains a middling a QB2 option until further notice.
The defense and the kicker
Both the Steelers and Ravens have allowed 19 sacks, but Pittsburgh has played one less game. Kelvin Beachum might be the Steelers left tackle of the future, but he'll make his second NFL start at the position on Saturday and the rest of the offensive line can best be described as leaky. Expect Terrell Suggs and company to attack, attack, attack. Baltimore's defense entered the week with 22 sacks, second in the NFL. ...Justin Tucker is 10 for 10 on field goals over his last four games. There should be opportunities for more this week so consider Tucker a top-10 option.
On the other side...
Last week the Ravens had issues with Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy. Another first-year power runner awaits the defense this week in Pittsburgh's Le'veon Bell. In this space last week, we recommended starting Lacy even though Baltimore allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs as Green Bay's ground game and overall offense produce. That's not the case with the Steelers. They rank 31st in rushing on the season. In two games, Bell is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. Last week against the stingy Jets, he had 34 yards on 16 carries. Fantasy owners should look to target Bell as a buy-low candidate next week as he has legitimate potential and the schedule improves. For this week, owners should look elsewhere.
In addition to CSNwashington duties covering the Wizards, Hoyas and the college basketball scene, Ben writes about and ranks fantasy football players for FFToolbox.com, rated the most accurate site for the 2012 season.