Steelers-Ravens playoff chat with the PG's Jerry Micco & Ron Fritz of the Baltimore Sun

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Ron Fritz: Hello Pittsburgh!!! How yinz doin?

Ron Fritz: I had pierogies for dinner last night, too

Jerry Micco: Hi Ron, ready to go here.

The Chief: Hi Ron, thanks for the Chat. Does the short week and traveling on the road hurt the Raven's this week?

Ron Fritz: Chief, it might, but it was such an easy win over the Chiefs and I don't think the Ravens will let anything bother them.

Stan: Will Ed Reed play Saturday? Any news on his brother?

Ron Fritz: Stan,
All indications are that Ed Reed will play. He went to La. after the game and returned to the team to prepare for the game. No new word on his brother.

Natalie: Hey, Ron, what's the latest health report from the Steelers? Anyone important out?

Ron Fritz: Natalie,
Jerry might have a better idea, but I think the extra week off helped the Steelers heal. I anticipate them to be healthy.

Jerry Micco: Natalie, I can answer that one: No major injuries reported for the Steelers. And Aaron Smith may even play. Longshot, though.

Jack B.: Any chance we see some wildcat (maybe just a play or two) out of Boldin this week? Former QB, think it could throw in an interesting wrinkle.

Ron Fritz: Jack B. -- No chance. They haven't done anything out of the wildcat all season and they won't start now. It's a pretty conservative offense.

Jerry Micco: If they haven't run it all season, I doubt you'd see it in this game.

James_Taiwan: Ron, will everyone in Baltimore be calling for a new quarterback if Flacco loses again to the Steelers? Baltimore fans can only wish that they had drafted Big Ben.

Ron Fritz: James, Flacco has solidified himself as the QB of the Ravens. He took every snap this season and I saw a stat today that he's tied for the lead in road playoff wins with four. A lot of teams wish they took Big Ben. The Browns sure do.

Six Rings: What DB for the Steelers do you think the Ravens will go after?

Jerry Micco: Probably Bryant McFadden, who has not had his best season. Ike Taylor is a good cover corner, so I don't expect the Ravens to pick on him.

Ron Fritz: Six Rings, nice name. They'll go after everybody except Troy.

PhillyMarty: Ron: Any concern that the Flacco/Harbaugh team has yet to win a truly big Dec-Jan game? The play that Troy made in December reflects poorly on Harbaugh.

Ron Fritz: PhillyMarty, Not really. They beat the Saints in December, which turned out to be a big win. That play reflected poorly on the offense.

Lone Wolf: It appears the Ravens have some injuries to key players on their OL?

Ron Fritz: Lone Wolf, they are healthy. Gaither has missed the entire season, but the rest of the o-line has been fairly healthy all season.

KS Steeler: To speak frankly, the two Ravens I worry about hurting the Steeelers are Suggs and Rice. How about Ravens fans, what Steelers worry you?

Jerry Micco: If I were a Steelers fan, I'd worry that Flacco looked very good last week and Todd Heap looks like he's playing as well as ever. Of course, if the Steelers lock down Polamalu on him, he won't be nearly as effective as he was in KC, where they chose not to cover him.

Ron Fritz: KS Steeler, Obviously Troy is always a concern, but if I were the Ravens I'd worry about Harrison and Woodley. I'm not convinced that Oher can handle Flacco's Blind Side.

The Chief: Jerry/Ron, player from each team that we don't hear alot about that could make a difference this week.

Jerry Micco: Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers rookie WR, who is capable of big plays and gets better every week.

Ron Fritz: Chief, you're back. I'd say for the Ravens it's Willis McGahee. For the Steelers, Heath Miller can really hurt the Ravens' linebackers.

DB: Why would Suggs make his comment stating that the winner of this game will be the Super Bowl winner? What happened to the '1 game at a time' approach

Jerry Micco: Terrell Suggs. Never a dull moment for the folks at the Sun, I'll bet. Sort of like Ben here, but for different reasons.

Ron Fritz: DB, Suggs has been pretty tame with his comments. I honestly think he feels the Ravens and the Steelers are the two best teams and one of them should go on to win the SB.

PhillyMarty: Ron: For a #2 back, surprised how many snaps McGahee gets rather than Rice. What is your take on the allocation of carries and has it enabled Rice to stay fresher?

Ron Fritz: PhillyMarty, Willis is more of a power back than Ray and it really brings a change of pace to the offense. It keeps Rice healthy and when he comes back in they are able to change it up again.

Little Worker: Jerry, I don't remember hearing much from Redman since the Baltimore game. Any chance the Steelers have been saving him and we could see him get 5-10 carries on Saturday?

Jerry Micco: I think you'll see Redman more, but probably not more than 5 carries. Mendenhall is still the workhorse, based on his 380 carries this year. But Redman is a goal-line guy and not a bad blocker when they try him as a fullback.

Ron: How will the Steelers try to take Heap out of the game?

Jerry Micco: Cover him with Polamalu, but also have Woodley and Harrison hammer him a the line of scrimmage. He's too good to completely take out of a game.

Ron Fritz: Ron, nice name. As Jerry suggested, they can put Troy on him. Or they can get to Flacco before he finds Heap. They were awesome last week against the Chiefs, but they covered him with an LB.

KS Steeler: Ron, FYI, I hope the Raven fans are too pumped up about that KC win, everyone out here expected exactly that. It is no more impressive than a win against a 4-12 team. KC feasted on a weak schedule.

Ron Fritz: KS Steeler, I think Ravens fans were happy to finally see the team pound a lesser opponent. They played down to the Bills, Panthers and Texans and almost lost those games. Going on the road for a playoff game and hammering the Chiefs was good for the team and the town.

Derrel: I would like to see McGahee in the backfield and Rice in the slot. Why do you think they don't run a offensive formation? It would spread out the defense and give use some additional options.

Ron Fritz: Derrel, because they have Heap, who works the slot, and then bring in Houshmandzadeh, they like keeping Rice around for checkdown throws.

James_Taiwan: Will Derrick Mason be back with the Ravens in 2011?

Ron Fritz: James, that's a good question. He's under contract and he's had a good season. I think it's entirely up to him. If the Ravens win the SB, no way he comes back. He retires. If they fall short, he might want to go for it again.

Suburban Rhythm: What is the mood around the Ravens room regarding Reed and the situation with his brother? Is this a distraction? Rallying force? Neither?

Ron Fritz: SR, I think it's a rallying force and Ed Reed has not let it become a distraction for him or his teammates. The scene in the LR after the Chiefs win was really touching and showed how much Reed and his teammates mean to each other.

Guff: Do you think the refs are going to let the game be as physical as normal?

Jerry Micco: I think this series is measured in large part by physical play. I don't see that changing Saturday.

Ron Fritz: Guff, we can only hope so. I don't think you'll see a lot of after-the-whistle crap like we saw in the Chiefs game. I think the refs let them play.

Neil: Who do you think will have a bigger impact on Saturday's game? HEEEEEEAPPP or HEEEAAAATH?

Jerry Micco: The Steelers found Miller 5 times in the Cleveland game a couple of weeks ago. He's one of Ben's favorite targets. Similar guys, and both, I'd think, will be keys for their team's offenses.

Ron Fritz: Neil, I want to answer simply, yes. Both will. But the Ravens can really get toasted if they have their LBs cover Miller.

Natalie: DB, I'm currently in Balt., and I've noticed that the fans treat this game like a Super Bowl. They don't care what else happens that season if only they can beat the Steelers.

The Mayor: Bet between you guys? I say National Bohemian and crab cakes VS Iron City and Pierogi's

Jerry Micco: OK, I'm game for that.

Ron Fritz: I'm all for it.

Ron Fritz: I think we need to create crab-filled pierogies.

Jerry Micco: I'm really game for that.

PirateApologist: Does the winner of this game automatically pack their bags for New England? Or do either of you give the Jets a chance in the other game?

Jerry Micco: There's always a chance the Jets could win, but I'm not seeing it.

Ron Fritz: PirateApologist, sorry dude. The Jets can win, sure, but NE and Belichick really want this game.

reggie: Do the Steelers have a chance if Suggs has a dominant game?

Ron Fritz: Reggie, sure they do. Suggs has been the only pass rusher, so even if he gets two or three, I think Big Ben can survive.

Jerry Micco: If the Steelers can't handle Suggs, then it's going to make for a long day. Ben is their best offensive weapon. If he's neutralized by the pass rush, the Steelers are in big trouble.

Dan Hudson: How much will it help the Ravens Offense/pass Blocking to have Heap & Mclain back - they both missed the last game with Pitt

Ron Fritz: Dan, that's huge for the Ravens. They are a totally different team with a healthy Heap and McClain is such a good blocker.

PhillyMarty: Considering #7's tendency to hold the ball too long and both teams are not strong in QB protection, which LB/DB is most likely to get the strip sack fumble that changes the outcome of this game?

Jerry Micco: For the Steelers, that would be James Harrison.

Ron Fritz: PhillyMarty, I'm going to throw a longshot out here and say Paul Kruger for the Ravens and Harrison for the Steelers.

hamhocker: Hi Ron,would it be accurate to say that the Ravens feel second best to the Steelers, they have lost the important games to them time after time? I feel the Ravens will not have the appetite for this ravenous encounter with their masters of late. Hard to understand why Suggs thinks his team can compete with such a superior opponent.

Jerry Micco: Actually, the teams split this year, so this is the rubber match. And it'll be close.

Ron Fritz: Hamhocker, all I can say is wow. These teams are so close it isn't funny.

Suburban Rhythm: Ron, what are the field conditions and wind like in Baltimore compared to Heinz? Could these change what is a Ravens advantage in Koch and Cundiff to a push?

Ron Fritz: SR, they are both very good and they are pros. They've kicked in Pittsburgh before so unless it's really bad, they should be fine and yes, they are an advantage.

OrioleMark: If game goes to OT what do you expect winner of the toss to do? Take ball or defer?

Jerry Micco: With the new OT rules for the playoffs, it might be better to defer.

Ron Fritz: OrioleMark, I think you have to defer.

daBurgh: Is Bmore going to have a rally? Anything like the Terrible Tree the Steelers have? I just can't imagine too many cities get as excited/involved as Pgh.

Ron Fritz: daBurgh, yeah Pittsburgh's the greatest city in the world. Please. Baltimore has rallies planned all day, all over the city. They call it Purple Friday. You should try the Purple Kool-Aid.

Jerry Micco: I'm sorry, I'm thinking grape juice on that one.

Jerry Micco: Purple Friday? Really?

Ron Fritz: Jerry, I'd look like the world's biggest Oompa-Loompa if I wore purple.

Ron Fritz: Yep. I have to contain myself from wearing purple.

Ron: Flacco in the past has folded under Pittsburgh's blitz pressure, but if he brings his new found scrambling ability with him Saturday Steelers are in trouble, your thoughts.

Ron Fritz: Ron, again, nice name. Flacco has been running for his life, but I don't think he's particularly adept at it. If he can run against the Steelers that would be a big plus. They always seem to get to him.

vic weinryb: Want a game strategy for the Ravens? Step/fall on Ben's bad foot at the first opportunity!

Jerry Micco: Usually, a guy like Chris Kemoeatu can do that for the Ravens.

Ron Fritz: Vic, Suggs is going to twist Ben's foot at the bottom of the pile.

Jerry Micco: I'm thinking of you in purple and it is not pretty, Ron.

Ron Fritz: Blue and white are my colors!

The Chief: Do either of you really think the winner of this game can go to Foxboro and beat the Patriots?

Ron Fritz: The Chief, I think either team can beat the Pats. Any given Sunday.

Jerry Micco: Certainly. Either team can beat New England. Not that it would be easy or that it would happen, but it's not out of the question.

Derrel: Heap won't be as active against the Steelers as he was against the soft KC defense. I like Rice in the slot on some of the plays. He's quick and more likely to take a long one for a TD than Heap.

Ron Fritz: Derrel, Rice can indeed take it to the house from anywhere.

Jerry Micco: I think the Steelers fear Rice more than Heap. Rice has been devastating out of the backfield on passes, and the Steelers are challenged to cover him. That job may go to Lawrence Timmons, who can run very well.

PhillyMarty: Officials did not call much holding in last week's games, typical for a playoff game. Does that help/hurt one team more than the other?

Jerry Micco: If the Steelers tackles can't get away with a hold now and then, it could be a long day for them.

Ron Fritz: PhillyMarty, it helps both teams. If they can get to the QB, it could mean all the difference.

Joe: Both teams are extremely familiar with each other . However it always seems like each team will try something new. What do you expect?

Jerry Micco: The Steelers always like a little wrinkle, but I don't expect many changes for this game.

Ron Fritz: Hey Joe -- I really think the Ravens will stick to what they've done. Trick plays seem to backfire on them. They might have Stallworth run a reverse or two, if he's active.

Mitch: In the first game, Ray Rice was hurt. In the second game, he was not used much out of the backfield in passing situations. With Heap hurt at the beginning of the second game, Rice was kept in for protection purposes. Do you think he will play a much bigger role in this game? I feel he has to if the Ravens are going to win.

Jerry Micco: You cannot hold back any of your big play guys when you face Pittsburgh. So I expect Rice to play and be a big part of the offense.

Ron Fritz: Mitch, Ray Rice could be the difference in the game. If the Steelers pay too much attention to him, Heap and WRs can hurt them. If they don't lock down Rice, he'll kill them.

Steve: Jerry, why are Steelers fans so annoying? For having so much success, they sure act like whiny toddlers.

Jerry Micco: Why don't you stuff it, Steve. Now where's my pacifier? Actually, all kidding aside, they are the most passionate bunch of folks you'll ever find. And they are world wide. And like any fan base, there are always some knuckleheads.

Ron Fritz: Steve, I'll help you there. Steelers fans are born that way. My parents are Steelers fans, so I grew up hearing about their team's greatness.

Ravens1: who will play the most dominant role for both teams?

Ron Fritz: Ravens1, let's go with Reed for the Ravens and Harrison for the Steelers.

Jerry Micco: I really look for the Steelers great corps of linebackers to have a good game. I think they are the difference makers for them. Everyone looks for Troy P., so someone else is going to have to step up to make a play. For the Ravens, Boldin and Rice are true threats. If Flacco can play well, the Ravens will do well.

bob m: If the ravens lose this game, does Cameron move on??

Ron Fritz: Bob M. -- if the offense disappoints, that's very likely. Harbaugh is very loyal to his assistants, though.

Nick: Now that Flacco seems to be a little more comfortable in the pocket, do you think the team has been practicing with the WRs more to come back to the ball when Flacco scrambles in the pocket? A la Big Ben... The Steelers receivers seem to have an innate ability to come back to Ben when he scrambles...

Jerry Micco: The Steelers receivers know if they don't give him an outlet, he'll get killed, that's why.

Ron Fritz: I think they've done that all season, but Flacco rarely got out of the pocket. Honestly, he's pretty much a statue back there.

Guff: Where do you guys watch the game from?

Jerry Micco: I'll be in the press box at Heinz Field.

Ron Fritz: I'll be in the office for this one.

Big Tony: Prediction Guys?!

Ron Fritz: Ravens 17, Steelers 13.

Jerry Micco: Very tough game, and very close. A part of me likes the Ravens for special teams, but a part of me knows the Steelers win plenty of big playoff games at Heinz Field. I'll say 16-13 Steelers.

Jerry Micco: Ron, I need to wrap up, OK?

Ron Fritz: OK. I'd like to thank yinz in Pittsburgh. This has been a blast. Have fun this weekend! Take care Jerry.

Jerry Micco: I want to thank all of you for taking part in the chat. These are great and Ron is the only fellow sports editor I do this with, which tells you what this game is like for fans in both cities. It's always huge. Ron, see you down the road. Enjoy the game, everyone.


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