Ruoff’s Rundown Inside the Matchup
Today, we are going to take an inside look at how each team compares and what matchups will help decide a winner in tonight’s wildcard showdown between Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Offensive line play and in particular, protecting the quarterback, will decide the game on Saturday.
In their previous meetings this year, the team that was able to get the most pressure on the quarterback has been the team that has won the game.
The Steelers offensive line has been thriving as of late and their protection for Roethlisberger has certainly been a huge reason he has had a career year. The Ravens offensive line has also performed extremely well this year, but they face some uncertainties coming into Saturday’s game after a season-ending injury to right tackle Rick Wagner and health concerns surrounding left tackle Eugene Monroe.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday’s game, it could become hard to get pressure on the quarterbacks as the Heinz Field turf becomes hard to make sharp cuts on.
The defensive line that is able to adjust to the conditions and win the battle of the trenches will have a huge advantage in this game.
The Steelers defensive line has been playing better as of late, but they still struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback late in the season. In addition, they rely heavily on young players up front who have very little playoff experience.
In contrast, the Ravens will welcome back all-pro lineman Haloti Ngata, who sat out the last 4 games from a substance abuse suspension. He should be well rested and ready to make an impact in this game.
The secondary for each time is clearly a week spot for the Steelers and Ravens. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in yards passing a game given up and their challenge does not get any easier this week with 2 prolific quarterbacks in the game.
The Ravens will be looking for revenge after Roethlisberger lit them up for 6 touchdown passes earlier this year and they should be well prepared for the game. The Steelers have seen their secondary make huge steps forward with Brice McCain and Antwon Blake stepping in at cornerback and helping solidify a shaky unit. Both secondaries seem shaky at best, so neither team boasts much of an advantage in this category.
Backs and Receivers
The Steelers biggest advantage was at the running-back position, but they were dealt a huge blow this week as star running-back Le’Veon Bell was declared out for the game.
Now Piittsburgh will have to rely on undrafted rookie Josh Harris to carry the workload, which has to concern Steeler fans.
With Bell out, expect Antonio Brown to see even more passes his way.
For the Ravens, their attack runs through running back Justin Forsett. At 5.4 yards per carry, he led the NFL in that category and was clearly Baltimore’s most dynamic playmaker.
A healthy Forsett gives the Ravens a slight edge with Bell inactive for the game.
Both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have won a Super Bowl and successfully produced during multiple playoff games in the past, so both signal callers should be ready to go. Despite all the playoff success in his career, Flacco is 0-2 in career playoff games at Heinz Field and his four interceptions in those games accounts for half of his total career playoff interceptions.
The game is in Pittsburgh, so advantage goes to Roethlisberger.
Although the Steelers have been better on special teams this year when compared to recent seasons, they still struggled at times and have given up big plays in the return game. Baltimore on the other hand, seems to always have an exceptional special teams unit and that is no different this year. According the footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens have the second best special teams unit in the league (according to their advanced statistics) – ranking only behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
Both coaches have immaculate pedigrees and have been in this type of “high pressure” situation before. I expect them both to make the necessary adjustments to put their respective team in position to win, so neither team really has a distinct advantage. However, we still remember when Steeler’s coach Mike Tomlin “accidentally” walked onto the field during a kick return against Baltimore last year and kept a touchdown off the board as a result. We like the effort and the “do anything to win” attitude Mike, so a slight (emphasis on slight) advantage goes to Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 Baltimore 20
The rain is going to have a major impact on this game and should keep the scoring low.
In the end, I think the home crowd makes a big difference and the Steelers get a late turnover to win this game.
FanRag Sports Wants to Know:
Will the Steelers or Ravens win?
Which QB do you trust more with the game on the line?
What X-Factors will determine this Wild Card Matchup?
Will a team playing on Wild Card Weekend play in the Super Bowl?
Be Seen, Be Heard, Be a Fan!
Tweet your NFL comments, questions, rants and reactions to @FanRagSports and @TodaysPigskin then Find Us on Facebook.