The Pittsburgh Steelers will attempt to start the 2014 season 2-0 Thursday night on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. Below are a few of my final thoughts heading into the game along with my final score prediction.
Both teams should be able to run on one another in this game. The Steelers offense should consider running a lot of inside zone while the Ravens should attempt to run quite a bit of outside zone.
Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco attempted 62 passes. I will be shocked if he throws more than 40 times against the Steelers. If does hit that number, it will be because they are way behind heading into the fourth quarter.
I suspect we will see a few battles between old men Ike Taylor and Steve Smith Thursday night. Taylor has to wrap up Smith quickly as he is still dangerous after the catch.
Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has two very good tight ends in Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels and I suspect Flacco will try to use both of them just like he did last week against the Bengals. The two combined last week for 20 targets and totaled 14 receptions for 117 yards.
It will be interesting to see how much no-huddle the Steelers use Thursday night in their first road game. Crowd noise figures to be a factor and the communication has to be great. I suspect at least 20 plays will be run using it.
Third down conversions, as usual, will likely decide who wins this game if it is close.
With Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb sitting this game out, Chykie Brown is primed to be picked on. Look for Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to get a lot of attention as the Ravens can’t let him take over the game.
The Steelers should not be shy about using running back Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield as a pass catcher once again. They need to stress the Ravens inside linebackers and make them make plays.
Last week outside linebacker Jarvis Jones went against Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and he has another tall task this week in Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe. Jones has to start taking that next step.
These games are usually close and there’s no reason to think that this one won’t come down to a last minute field goal.
Prediction: Steelers 23 Ravens 20