Sports are all about rivalries. In the NFL, there is not a more heated or fiercer than the one between the Baltimore Ravens (7-2) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3). The Ravens head to Heinz field tonight to put their AFC North division lead on the line. When these two teams meet, expect nothing less than good old-fashioned, smash-mouthed football. This the 17th consecutive year that these two franchises will play each other in the regular season, Pittsburgh leads the overall series 18-14, with the Ravens sweeping the Steelers (and ultimately the entire division) in 2011.
On Offense: Like I said, the division lead is on the line. Ravens QB Joe Flacco and the offense must improve their play on the road. These two teams (and their fans) do not like each other and you can believe the Steelers (and their fans) are going to do everything they can to do make the Ravens’ night miserable. Near perfection execution on offense is huge for this game.
On Defense: The Steelers are without QB Ben Roethlisberger. Veteran QB Byron Leftwich will take his place. Leftwich hasn’t started a game since 2009. OLB Terrell Suggs and friends need to pressure him early and often. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall is back in the lineup and he along with RBs Chris Redman and Jonathon Dwyer will look to test the Ravens suspect run defense. The biggest test will be how the Ravens secondary matches up against the speed of Steelers WR Mike Wallace and Emanuel Sanders.
A lot of Ravens fans think this game will be a cakewalk. Not so fast. The Steelers may be without Big Ben. But, the Steelers still rank 1st in total defense. The Ravens improve to 8-2. But, it won’t be easy.
The Pick: Ravens 24, Steelers 21