Matchup: Steelers vs. Ravens
Jonathan Dwyer lines up in the backfield for his first game since being installed as No. 1 on the depth chart.
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When the Ravens have the ball: The Steelers held the Ravens to 200 yards, 12 first downs and didn't allow an offensive touchdown in the first meeting at Heinz Field. What's more, they haven't allowed an opposing quarterback to pass for more than 169 yards in the past six games. Joe Flacco, though, has played better at home than on the road, averaging 322.4 yards passing with 10 TDs. CB Ike Taylor held top WR Torrey Smith to just one catch for 7 yards and has held the opponent's top receiver to just one catch three times in the past six games. Smith averages 17.9 yards per catch and leads the team with seven touchdown catches. In addition, they held the Ravens to 47 yards rushing on 23 attempts -- the lowest by an opponent this season. RB Ray Rice, who leads the team with 794 yards rushing and is second with 48 receptions, had 40 yards on 20 carries. He didn't manage a run longer than 8 yards, though he did have the Ravens' longest reception -- a 31-yarder in the first quarter.
When the Steelers have the ball: The offense has struggled without QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown, managing just one touchdown in each of the past three games. Brown, who was the team's top receiver at the time of his injury, will return. But QB Charlie Batch will get his second start in a row because of injuries to Roethisberger and Byron Leftwich, and coach Mike Tomlin said the offensive plan will be tailored to his strengths. Batch threw three INTs against the Browns and converted just 1 of 9 third-down chances. The once-proud Ravens defense has been dogged by injuries and poor play and ranks 24th overall in the league, 26th against the rush. They allow an average of 141.3 ypg and gave up 134 in the first meeting against the Steelers. But they are doing better than during a three-game stretch last month when they allowed 207.3 yards rushing in consecutive games against Kansas City (214), Dallas (227) and Houston (181). CB Cary Williams leads the team with four INTs, including a 63-yard TD return, but part of that is because he is repeatedly targeted by opposing quarterbacks.
Keep an eye on
WR/KR Jacoby Jones ... He is the Ravens No. 3 receiver. He was held to just two catches for 1 yard in the first meeting at Heinz Field. But he was the difference in the game when he returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown. He has a league-best three kick returns for touchdown this season. He also has scored on kickoff returns of 108 and 105 yards. For the season, he leads the AFC with a 35.8-yard average on kick returns and is seventh in punt returns with an 11-yard average.
The Ravens have won the past three meetings, including 13-10 at Heinz Field two weeks ago. ...The Steelers have never beaten the Ravens without Roethlisberger (0-5). ... The Ravens have won 15 consecutive games and 23 of the past 24 at home. That is the longest active streak in the NFL. Their last home loss came to the Steelers, 13-10, on Dec. 5, 2010. The Steelers are 2-2 in the past four at M&T Bank Stadium. ... The Steelers have won seven of the 13 meetings under Mike Tomlin, including playoffs. ... Nine of the past 12 meetings have been decided by six points or fewer. Six of the past seven in the regular season have been decided by three or fewer.
To win, the Ravens must ...
1. Feel right at home. Their offense averages 36.8 points a game at home compared to 16.5 points a game on the road.
2. Get some mo-Joe. Since 2010, Flacco has won 20 of 21 games, completed nearly 62 percent of his passes and thrown 33 TDs at home.
3. Get Torrey some glory. Smith is fifth in the league in average yards per catch but was held to just one reception for 7 yards in the first meeting.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Gird on third. After leading the league in third-down conversions, the offense has converted just 12 of its past 42, or 28.5 percent.
2. Keep Ray at bay. Rice averaged just 2 yards per carry in the first meeting, his lowest one-game average of the season.
3. Put some steal in Steelers. Despite how well it played, the defense didn't create a turnover in the first game -- one of four games this season they have failed to do that.
First Published December 2, 2012 12:00 am