Steelers vs. Ravens Preview

Steelers

(5-6, 2-4 away)

Both
AFC North teams are among the half-dozen teams in the conference
currently tied for the final wild-card berth, making this game a
potentially season-altering contest.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
are playing their best football of the season, but are still on the
outside of the muddled AFC playoff picture. With a Thanksgiving night
visit to the archrival Baltimore Ravens, they face a team that’s essentially in the exact same position.

Ravens

(5-6, 4-1 home)

“That team is hot,” Ravens running back Ray Rice
said of the Steelers. “They’re playing good football right now. They
have (a) group, they have their stable of how they want to play football
and they’re doing a good job of it right now.”
The two teams are
tied with Titans, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins for the sixth and final
playoff spot in the AFC, though Tennessee would make the cut currently.
The top two tiebreakers for the wild card are head-to-head record and
winning percentage within the conference, and with Baltimore having
already lost in Pittsburgh, the Ravens may be especially desperate
Thursday.
“They are a tough team, we have to go into their place and look forward to a good battle,” said Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
“There is a lot on the line with this game like it always is when we
play them. It always seems like whenever either team is trying to get
somewhere, the other is in their way.
“It’s that way this week as we are battling in the division and it’s going to be a good game Thanksgiving night.”
Pittsburgh (5-6) has won three games in a row, all by double-digits. During the stretch, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been mostly mistake-free, completing 63.3 percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns to just one interception.
Roethlisberger
threw for two scores in a 27-11 win at Cleveland in Week 12, but the
Steelers’ best performance came from their defense. The unit had a
season-high five sacks, held the Browns to just 55 rushing yards, and
cornerback William Gay sealed the win in the fourth quarter with a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“Defensively,
it was simple. We were able to stop the run, and that put us in
position to apply pressure to the quarterback,” Pittsburgh coach Mike
Tomlin said. “In doing so, we were able to create some turnovers and
some big plays, and to actually score.”
The Steelers have given up
just 4.97 yards per play during their streak after New England shredded
them for 8.59 per snap in a 55-31 loss Nov. 3, and they could have
another good chance to shine Thursday. The Ravens’ offense ranks 31st in
the NFL, averaging just 4.54 yards per play.
When the teams met
on Oct. 20 at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh held the Ravens out of the end
zone until Baltimore tied the score at 16 with 1:58 to play.
Roethlisberger then drove the Steelers down the field, setting up a
game-winning 42-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham.
That
close contest was hardly an exception to the rivals’ recent matchups.
Since the start of the 2009 season, eight of the teams’ nine meetings
have been decided by exactly three points.
Baltimore (5-6) also is coming off of a win dominated by its defense, having knocked off the New York Jets 19-3 on Sunday. The Ravens’ pass defense was outstanding, allowing Geno Smith to compete just 40.9 percent of his throws, and Baltimore cornerback Corey Graham had a pair of interceptions.
“In the end, we just felt like let’s win a game just for the defense, for us,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “Not nobody else, just defense let’s go out and try to win a game on our own.”
The
Ravens have been a much better team this season at M&T Bank
Stadium. Baltimore is 4-1 at home, allowing just 10.8 points per game in
those contests.
The Steelers have won three of their last five visits to Baltimore, though, including a 23-20 win last December with Charlie Batch filling in for an injured Roethlisberger. The Ravens have lost only five of their other 42 home games since 2009.
Though
having such an important game on a short week makes for potentially
challenging circumstances, the two sides won’t have to go through much
new information.
“We’ll be running stuff that we know and
understand against a team that we pretty much understand,” Ravens coach
John Harbaugh said. “I’m sure there will be a wrinkle or two that
they’ll throw at us that we’ll have to be ready for and just go play
football.”
There’s one wrinkle Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco would prefer his team not employ, however. Baltimore used backup QB Tyrod Taylor in the wildcat often against the Jets, with Taylor taking five snaps and lining up as a receiver on seven other plays.
Flacco was not a fan.
“I
don’t like that stuff. … I’m the quarterback,” Flacco said. “I want
to be behind the line of scrimmage, I want to be taking the snaps.”
 *provided by ESPN.com

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