The Pittsburgh Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak into Maryland today, which is where many have gone to tie in the past. Pittsburgh does not have a good away record against the Baltimore Ravens, even when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is playing.
The Steelers are just 4-10 in Baltimore since Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, and Roethlisberger himself is 3-6 in the games he has started. This will be his 10th start, and he has never thrown for 300 yards, or more than two touchdowns, or posted a quarterback rating of 100 or more. Or thrown for eight or more yards per attempt. In fact, his numbers are typically much worse than that, his career quarterback rating, as I mentioned earlier today, being below 70 in his nine previous starts.
That will always been the primary thing to watch heading into a game in Baltimore, because when you have such a long history of trouble, well, it tends to matter. And this isn’t ancient history. The Steelers are 1-5 in their last in their last six games on the road against the Ravens.
I think the biggest difference this time around, however, will be a focus on the running game, or at least a lack of a disappearing act. James Conner had nine carries the first time around, and just three in the second half. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner took the blame for that, and Conner has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month since then.
One thing I would look for in the passing game is for the non-wide receiver contributions. Particularly tight end. The Steelers have had some big games from the tight end position the last few times they’ve faced the Ravens.
On the defensive side of the ball, it will be important for the front seven to control the running game and force the game into Flacco’s hands. The Ravens are dealing with a number of injuries to the offensive line, including both tackles, and Alex Collins is averaging under four yards per carry on the season.
The Ravens defense has allowed over 100 yards on the ground in five of eight games so far this season, including 154 against the Carolina Panthers this past week. Cam Newton chipped in 52, but over 100 came from a platoon of backs. The Steelers don’t use a platoon so much, so it will be interesting to see how Conner fares shouldering a full load.
One thing to note is that while Jimmy Smith was suspended for the first meeting, the Ravens’ top cornerback has been struggling since returning over the past four weeks. Still, the Steelers have to figure out who their third wide receiver is. It will be interesting to see if James Washington even dresses.
The Steelers’ new dime defense with Morgan Burnett and L.J. Fort will be important in this game as well. The Ravens had success on third down in the first matchup. This will be designed to challenge that.