Ravens tight end Dallas Clark caught a touchdown against the Steelers in their first matchup.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When the Ravens have the ball: Ray Rice has run tentatively and is failing to gain yards after contact. He has carried 156 times for 450 yards -- just 2.9 yards per carry. Bernard Pierce averages 2.7 yards a rush. The Ravens rushed 26 times for 82 yards in the first meeting Oct. 20 at Heinz Field and did not have a run longer than 13 yards. That is the second-lowest rushing total allowed by the Steelers.
Part of the reason for the poor running game has been the line, where the Ravens had to trade for LT Eugene Monroe to replace ineffective Bryant McKinnie and A.Q. Shipley has replaced injured Kelechi Osemele at left guard. Center Gino Gradkowski has struggled in protection, part of the reason quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked 37 times, second most in the league. The Steelers have 10 sacks in their past three games. Flacco, though, remains one of the best deep passers in the league. His favorite target is WR Torrey Smith (17.9 ypc, 48 catches).
When the Steelers have the ball: The Ravens' front seven remains formidable, led by NT Haloti Ngata and the sack-happy outside linebacker tandem of Terrell Suggs (9 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (9 1/2). DE Arthur Jones, who will line up against RT Marcus Gilbert, is next with four. Darryl Smith leads the team with 89 tackles and also has 3 1/2 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles and is tied for the team lead with 14 passes defensed.
Jimmy Smith is a big, physical cornerback who has emerged as the team's top cornerback, but CB Lardarius Webb is getting healthy after coming off his second reconstructive knee surgery in three years. He likely will match up with Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL with 80 catches and the AFC with 1,044 receiving yards. Nickel back Corey Graham leads the team with three INTs. The Ravens have had problems in the middle of the field after losing both safeties, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, after the 2012 season. Rookie Matt Elam doesn't make many plays, but James Ihedigbo has replaced Pollard as a physical presence.
Keep an eye on:TE Dallas Clark ... He caught the tying touchdown in the first meeting as a suitable replacement for tight end Dennis Pitta, who was on short-term injured reserve. Pitta, though, has resumed practicing and could play against the Steelers. After a slow start in which he dropped passes, Clark, 34, has 30 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns. If Pitta returns, that gives Flacco two dependable targets in the middle of the field.
Intangibles: The Steelers have won three in a row and five of their past seven. The Ravens have lost four of their past six but are coming off a 19-3 victory against the Jets. ... The Steelers have won two in a row against the Ravens, including 19-16 Oct. 20 at Heinz Field. Eight of the past 10 meetings have been decided by three points. In those eight games, each team has scored a combined 139 points, an average of 17 points per game. ... The Ravens have won eight of their past nine home games against AFC North Division teams, with the lone loss coming in 2012 to the Steelers. They also are 10-1 at home in November under John Harbaugh and 7-1 in prime time in the same span.
To win, the Ravens must ...
1. Get men on Ben. Roethlisberger has 11 touchdowns in the past four games and is tied for the league lead with 47 passes of 20-plus yards.
2. Ground Brown. The NFL's leading receiver has three touchdowns in the past two games and at least one catch of 40-plus yards in each of the past three.
3. Get Torrey some glory. Ike Taylor has allowed a combined 328 yards receiving to Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon the past two games.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Dice Rice. The Ravens running game is more anemic than the Steelers', averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt, tied for worst in the league.
2. Sack-o Flacco. Only one other quarterback -- Miami's Ryan Tannehill -- has been sacked more times than the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
3. Mug Suggs. A five-time Pro Bowler, who has 16 1/2 career sacks against Roethlisberger, has not had a sack the past three games.
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