Game 8 Matchup: Steelers vs. Ravens


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Game plan

What the Steelers will do: Off-ensive coordinator Bruce Arians said the Steelers tried a pass-first approach vs. the Ravens last season that didn't work, so he will be committed to running the ball with Willie Parker. That, though, could be a psychological ploy because the Ravens have the league's No. 2 rush defense (71.9 ypg) and held Parker to 50 yards on 23 carries last season. QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 14 times by the Ravens last season, but has done a wonderful job of escaping pressure this season. The Steelers have two defensive goals: Stop RB Willis McGahee, the AFC's No. 2 runner behind Parker; and disrupt the timing pass of QB Steve McNair, who missed the past two games (groin/back).

What the Ravens will do: McNair hurt the Steelers in both games last year, completing 39 of 55 passes for 470 yards and four TDs. Still, the Ravens do not try to attack deep, averaging an AFC-worst 5.76 yards per attempt (29th in the NFL). Their longest completion is 37 yards. Defensively, the Ravens probably will try to confuse the Steelers' offensive line with a number of pre-snap stunts and line shifts, making it difficult for the linemen to know their blocking assignments.

Keep an eye on ...

KR/PR Yamon Figurs: Has replaced injured B.J. Sams and pushed the Ravens' special teams toward the top of the NFL. A third-round draft choice from Kansas State, Figurs has returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown (Week 3 against Arizona) and ranks third in the NFL with an average of 29.9 yards on kickoff returns. The Ravens are the only NFL team to return two punts for touchdowns this season. S Ed Reed had a 63-yard scoring return in Week 1 against Cincinnati.

Data

Game: Steelers (5-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens (4-3).

When: 8:30 p.m.

Where: Heinz Field.

TV: ESPN, WTAE.

Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).

Intangibles

Each team has won eight games in the regular-season series and each has one sweep -- the Steelers in 2002 and the Ravens in 2006. Baltimore won both last year by combined 58-7. The Ravens had an off week to prepare, giving their injured players extra time to heal. But the Steelers could get a lift from the presence of their 75th anniversary team members.

Keys to Victory

To win, the Ravens must ...

1. Give the air to McNair. He had big games against the Steelers last season and is 10-4 against them in his career.

2. Cause a Heap of trouble. TE Todd Heap has 29 catches in the past six games against the Steelers, including 11 in '06.

3. Have fries with their Roethlisberger. Not only was he sacked 14 times by the Ravens, they forced him into five turnovers last season.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1. Not let Willis kill us. McGahee has outrushed every opposing running back he has faced this season.

2. Jar Mason. Derrick Mason is the Ravens' top receiver and leads the league with 20 third-down catches.

3. Get a bead on Reed. With Adalius Thomas gone, Roethlisberger has to know where the coverage takes the Ravens' free safety.



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