The 3rd and final game of a fantastic evening of NFL action on Sky Sports. My beloved Steelers take on their divisional rivals the Ravens in a key game for the play off places as the loser is likely to see its post season hopes ended.
Steelers 5-6 at Ravens 5-6 Preview
So its an intense rivalry one of the best in Football. The Steelers won their meeting in Pittsburgh and since then bar a blip against the Raiders has really turned its season around after starting so poorly including a loss to the Vikings in London. A win for the Pittsburgh Steelers here would almost eliminate the Ravens as it would own them on the head to head leaving them just the Bengals to worry about and a strong chance of a wild card spot in their current form. Conditions will be cold in Baltimore with temperatures just below freezing perfect for smash mouth football.
Pittsburgh is on an upwards curve right now. Big ben has sorted out his issues with his coach’s mostly in private and the offence has been running pretty smoothly the last few games. The Ravens on the other hand are stuttering with their run game so poor. Meanwhile Flacco has complained to the media about having to be involved in any sort of wildcat plays that are drawn up. The Steelers will be keen to ensure their defence continues and impressive improvement in defence with the return of Woodley. Both teams are amongst the most sacked quarterbacks in football so expect plenty of that on Sky Sports.
The Steelers have seen a vast turn around, Big Ben is having an excellent 2nd half to his season and in Brown he has the 2nd best receiver for yards and 1st for catches in the NFL. For that reason the Steelers rank 8th in passing yards in the NFL. Their rush game is ranked 30th but theirs been modest improvement on that front lately as Bell looks a capable runner if a little held back by his offensive line. The return of Miller has helped the passing game with both his excellent protection and ability to catch difficult passes one of the best in the NFL at doing so. Sanders has seen more targets than Cotchery. But Cotchery is proving very effective as a 3rd receiver and leads the team in touchdowns. Cold weather can be a worry for a passing game but with the short intermediate routes that the Steelers have excelled with they should be just fine.
The defence has also looked wounded at times especially that horrible late show when the Patriots were able to walk through and put on record yards and points on the Steelers. They do well with their Goal Line defence but the usual rush defence has not been as good as it usually has been in years past. Since the Patriots game however they are doing much better stopping running backs however in past two weeks it has allowed itself to be torched by the star receivers which in this case would be Torrey Smith. No other Ravens receiver has passed 400 yards on the season. Pittsburgh has three and a recently fit Miller would be 2nd in receiving if on the Ravens depth chart.
The issue for the Ravens is as above Flacco has one consistent target, while their backfield struggles with both Rice and Pierce gaining under 3 yards a carry this season. Because of their limited pass game the Ravens have been more inclined to try running it than the Steelers have over the season. The Ravens defence has done well, solid in both pass and rushing and ranking 7th in points allowed keeping them in games but this will be much more of a test than last weeks assignment against the Jets.
Steelers at Ravens Summary:
The Steelers vast improvement means they come here with a great chance. The pass game should not be too held back by the conditions and an improvement in how they run the ball will be key. Stopping Smith will help out a lot in stopping the Ravens from having it too easy. Both defences are capable so avoiding turnovers will play a crucial part with both teams having similar turnover differentials.
Pittsburgh Steelers to win 27/20 winner
Jerricho Cotchery to score anyime touchdown 13/5 paddpower
Ray Rice Under 66.5 yards rushing 10/11 ladbrokes