Ravens look to get back on track against streaking Steelers
On Sept. 30, The Baltimore Ravens went into Pittsburgh and defeated the Steelers 26-14, putting themselves in the early driver’s seat of the AFC North race. The Ravens moved to 3-1, while their rivals fell to 1-2-1.
But Baltimore has basically driven the car off the road since. The Ravens have gone 1-3 including an ugly overtime loss to the Browns and a loss to New Orleans when star kicker Justin Tucker missed the game-tying PAT in the final minute. Meanwhile, The Steelers haven’t lost since September, going 3-0 with a bye week tossed in.
If the Ravens have any designs on staying in the AFC North race with the Steelers and 5-3 Bengals, they need to win this game heading into their bye week.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Ravens -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Footballs will fill the air
It’s no surprise that the Steelers rank fourth in the NFL in pass attempts. They have routinely ranked in the top 10 in recent seasons, and with running back Le’Veon Bell still holding out, it makes sense to put games in Ben Roethlisberger’s hands. But it’s stunning to see that the Ravens have attempted more passes than anyone in the NFL this season at more than 44 per game. Granted, the Baltimore running game has been a disappointment, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry (31st in the NFL). But obviously Joe Flacco has gotten comfortable very quickly with his three top targets. Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead are all in their first season with Baltimore, but all have more than 60 targets. Neither team is going to feel the need to grind this one out.
2. Still, the Steelers need to run it a little
When the Steelers rush for at least 100 yards, they are 3-0-1 this season. When they don’t, they are 1-2, including a season-low 19 yards on the ground when these teams first met. Pittsburgh hadn’t been held under 20 yards rushing in a game since 1970. The Ravens lead the NFL in scoring defense and total defense, but they are tougher against the pass, ranking second in yards allowed and fourth in touchdown passes allowed. They are 11th against the run, which isn’t bad, but James Conner has been on a roll for the Steelers. During their three-game winning streak, Conner has carried 64 times for 367 yards and six scores and has at least 110 yards in each game. If he can get anywhere near that mark, it would be good news for the Steelers.
3. Antonio Brown is due... again
Before these teams met in September, we said that Antonio Brown was dues to break out with a big game. It didn’t happen as he was held to 62 yards on five catches. In fact he hasn’t caught more than six passes in a game since then either. JuJu Smith-Schuster is actually tied with Brown for the team lead with 46 catches. Still … Brown has two 100-yard games in his last three, and he has caught five touchdown passes in the last three games, tying him for the NFL lead with eight on the season. In other words, he may be heating up. Brown has six games last season where he caught 10 or more passes; he hasn’t done it once this season. Yet.
The Ravens are the only team to hold the Steelers under 380 yards this season, limiting them to 284 while rolling up 451 yards of their own in the first meeting. But even that 26-14 victory never felt well in hand because the Ravens never got in the end zone in the second half, kicking four field goals to kinda-sorta-blow-open a game that was tied at 14 at halftime. It will be hard to shut the Steelers offense down again, and Baltimore will need more than field goals this time around.