Sunday, December 2, 2012

Week Thirteen: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview

Two weeks ago, the overall feeling among Pittsburgh Steelers fans was that their team had no chance with Byron Leftwich starting in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. However, the Steelers held their own and ultimately ended up with a chance to win the game. But somehow in just two weeks, things have gotten worse. Charlie Batch is now going to be taking snaps against the Baltimore Ravens just one week after he was pathetic in a loss to the Cleveland Browns. Win or lose, chances at winning the division are pretty much over. But this is still a divisional game which could mean something when it comes to holding off Cincinnati.

Steelers Offense vs. Ravens Defense: The defense of the Baltimore Ravens is not very good. A Roethlisberger led offense could likely pick them apart, especially with Todd Haley's style of offense. Batch can't do it though. He proved last week that he just can't sling it anymore. Sure, he will be helped by the fact that Antonio Brown should return to the lineup but that will only be a slight help. That's not an insult to Brown. It's just a statement to how bad Batch was last week. It probably wouldn't have mattered who the wide receivers were.

So, don't throw the ball! Rely on the run! With who? All four running backs on the roster coughed up the ball against the Browns last week. A couple of them coughed it up more than once. They were just lucky enough to have someone wearing the same style of jersey fall on top of it. Who do you trust? Jonathan Dwyer is probably the best option if you take a step back and just reset everything. That being said, all four of these guys know what happens when you turn the ball over. It's going to be in the back of their heads.

Ultimately, no matter what the Steelers decide to do offensively, it is not going to rule the day. Field position is going to be key. Not turning the ball over is going to be even more important. And coming off a game where the ball was turned over eight times doesn't exactly breathe confidence in that area. Best case scenario is that this becomes a very boring game filled with a lot punting.

Steelers Defense vs. Ravens Offense: Maybe he's actually healthy. Maybe it's just a motivational boost to a team that doesn't have much confidence. Regardless, Troy Polamalu is going to be roaming the field for the first time without being in street clothes since week five. Don't expect it to last too long. For someone who has been saying all year that he would never play another down in the NFL, you can sense my surprise that he's even going to go. It's not much to get excited about though. He's not going to play every down. He's going to get breaks. And the defense has played very well without him. The hope here is for him to create one of his patented splash plays that Joe Flacco knows all too much about.

As was the case two weeks ago, the Steelers' best friend in this game is going to be Cam Cameron. To a lot of people's surprise, he actually ran the ball a decent amount of the time in the last meeting. However, Ray Rice was pretty unsuccessful, at least one the ground. That fact alone means that Cameron is going to fall in love with Flacco again. Expect him to sling it all over the place.

The key is going to be keeping Rice out of the passing game. If Cameron didn't utilize his best player at all, he wouldn't have a job. He has a way of keeping Rice involved even though it's not traditional or necessarily agreed with. He has to be doing something right if his team is 9-2 with a below average defense. Cameron likes to create mismatches with Rice in the passing game. He did that two weeks ago. The longest pass play of the game was a pass to Rice. It wouldn't be a shock to see Polamalu largely utilized in an attempt to shut that down.

Prediction: Best case scenario is that this game is extremely ugly and boring. Not even great defense. Just extremely ugly offense. It certainly has the potential to be that. The big thing for the Steelers is going to be taking care of the ball. And I'm not extremely confident about that after last week. You can't coach away eight turnovers. Sure, some of them can be coached out but when there are that many, it's a talent problem. With the injuries this team has suffered, they just aren't talented enough. Just have to get through this, get Roethlisberger healthy, and move forward. Ravens 20, Steelers 7.

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