First place again on line as AFC North rivalry is renewed
The Steelers and Ravens have played some classics; they don’t like each other, and when they meet there is usually a lot at stake in the AFC North. Sunday’s game is no different, as the winner will have a least a share of the lead in the division.
This time around the schedule makers even gave both teams a week off to get ready. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, injured in a Week 6 loss at Miami, is expected to be back in the starting lineup after missing a home loss to New England.
But while both teams control their own fate in the AFC North, they both hit that week off reeling. The Ravens have lost four in a row since a 3-0 start, while the Steelers have lost back-to-back games after a 4-1 start. What is often a battle to prove who will be New England’s biggest challenger in the AFC is a fight to see which team will keep its head above water this time around.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Pick ‘em
Three Things to Watch
1. Ben Roethlisberger: On the road and possibly rusty
The good news for the Steelers is that Big Ben is back. The bad news is that recent history is not on his side. First of all, healthy or not, Roethlisberger has been a different quarterback on the road for more than two years now. His passer rating at home since the start of the 2014 season is 111.5 — compared to 86.7 on the road. Roethlisberger is 14-3 at home in the last two-plus seasons with 51 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Away from Heinz Field, it has been a different story; Big Ben is just 8-8 with 18 scores and 18 picks. As for the rusty part, last season Roethlisberger missed four games before returning to face Cincinnati at home, and the results were not great (262 yards, TD, 3 INT) in a 16-10 loss. He’ll need to be better than that for Pittsburgh to win this one.
2. Can Le’Veon Bell take some pressure off of Big Ben?
Many consider Bell the best running back in the NFL because of his ability to run with and catch the football. He may need to do a lot of the latter, because the Ravens don’t give up much on the ground. Baltimore is in the top five in the NFL in both rushing yards allowed and yards allowed per carry. Bell has 30 catches in four games since returning from suspension and he has been targeted double-digit times twice in those four games. Don’t be surprised if that happens again in this one.
3. Ravens rev up the running game
Baltimore has not been a great running team this season... or even a good one, actually. They rank 26th in the NFL at 86.2 rushing yards per game and 25th at 3.8 yards per carry. Terrance West has been better since taking over as the Ravens’ lead back, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but Baltimore has often abandoned the run (28th in rushing attempts). The Ravens might want to stick with it, because the Steelers are vulnerable (4.7 ypc allowed, 27th in the NFL) — and the teams that take advantage of that beat them. In its four wins, Pittsburgh has allowed just 65 yards per game on the ground; in three losses, that number balloons to 162.3.
It sounds crazy on the surface, but Ben Roethlisberger is just not a safe bet away from Heinz Field. He turns the ball over too much, and only two teams have more interceptions than Baltimore. Despite a four-game losing streak, the Ravens are in every game they play; every week has been a one-score outcome. A close game will mean they can stick with the running game and grind out just enough to stop their skid.