Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackJoe Flacco may be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, but he is not playing like it. He has not made enough big plays and his eight interceptions indicate he is not taking proper care of the ball. Flacco has overpowering arm strength and a quick release, but it seems that he is feeling the pressure of signing a huge contract extension and trying to defend his Super Bowl championship.The Steelers have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments in the early going, but they got themselves back on track in their Week Six victory over the Jets, the first time they have gotten in the win column this season. Ben Roethlisberger got a bit more time from his offensive line and he was sharp in completing 23-of-30 passes for 264 yards without an interception.
- OffenseThe Ravens have one of the best offensive lines in the game and two proven running backs in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, but they simply can’t run the ball effectively and that’s a big issue for head coach John Harbaugh. Torrey Smith has become a game-changing wideout. He has 28 receptions and 13 have been for 20 yards or more. Dallas Clark is becoming a key performer at tight end.The Steelers’ running game has also been a disappointment. Felix Jones is much too soft, while rookie Le’Veon Bell has had to battle injuries. Antonio Brown has become Roethlisberger’s favorite receiver, catching 41 passes for 498 yards and two touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders is too inconsistent, and rookie Markus Wheaton could play a much bigger role if he is recovered from finger surgery.
- DefenseThe Ravens offseason personnel losses don’t tell the entire story. They are simply not a good tackling team at this point, and they will have an ordinary defense unless that changes. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith leads the team with 53 tackles, and he also has 10 passes defended. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has a team-high 7.0 sacks.The Steelers played their best defensive game of the season against the Jets, as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme confused Jets quarterback Geno Smith throughout the game. LeBeau will try to do the same to Flacco. The Steelers rank sixth in overall defense, while free safety Ryan Clark leads the team with 37 tackles. LaMarr Woodley has a team-high 4.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Ravens cover their punts and kickoffs quite well. Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss are both major threats in the return game. Placekicker Justin Tucker 12-of-14 FG attempts and Harbaugh has faith that he will not fail when the game is on the line.The Steelers are fairly ordinary in their punt and kickoff coverage and they don’t appear to have any major threats in the return game. Shaun Suisham is a remarkable 10-of-10 in FG attempts, but he has not tried a field goal of 50 yards or more. Zoltan Mesko has had a poor year punting for the Steelers.
A crucial game here for both teams. The Steelers got back on the winning track against the Jets in Week Six, but they will have to continue to improve if they are going to stay with the Ravens for 60 minutes. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor