After showing some life in the offense in their home opener versus the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for their first game of the 2010 season against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore offense struggled to click on all cylinders against two of the better defenses in the league in New York and Cincinnati and this week will be an even bigger test for them as they head into a city that always plays them well.
There are three main match ups that Baltimore must control to win the battle on offense this week. The first is Joe Flacco versus the Steeler’s secondary. All week we’ve heard about Joe’s numbers at Heinz Field, he’s never recorded a win in three games and never thrown for over 200 yards. He struggled to red the secondary in New York and Cincinnati, but got the ball three times to Anquan Boldin in the end zone last week against Cleveland. The Steelers have allowed just 219 yards per game and caught five interceptions this season. The Ravens need to spread the ball out and Joe needs to get good reads on his receivers in order for the Ravens to win this first match up. This game will absolutely be low scoring, in fact if one team is able to put the ball in the end zone twice, they will likely be the winner. Flacco has to keep the ball out of the Steelers defenders hands as turnovers will play a crucial role in the outcome of this game. He’s already thrown five interceptions to four touchdowns this season, that trend must come to end if Baltimore plans to leave Pittsburgh with a win.
The Ravens offensive line versus the Steelers defensive line is the second match up this week. Though Flacco has under performed in his ability to read secondaries, he has been hurried by blitzes from New York and Cincinnati and will likely feel that pressure this week. Though the Ravens may have a tough time stopping the pressure provided by linebacker Lawrence Timmons and rest of the Steelers defensive line, they can counter it by spreading out the Steelers defense with their three feature wide receivers Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
The third and final match up is the Ravens run offense versus the Steelers run defense. Arguably their strongest feature on defense, he Steelers allow just 59.7 yards per game to their opponents on the ground and just one touchdown. With Ray Rice’s health uncertain, the Ravens offense has a lot of work to do with just Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain. Should Rice suit up for the Ravens this week they stand a much better chance as he’s average over four and half yards per attempt in three games against the Steelers. Rice’s style of running matches up well against the Steelers defense and provides a more balanced attack for the Ravens on offense.
If Rice is unable to suit up the match up on offense for the Ravens plays directly into the Steelers hand. Having Joe Flacco try to beat the Pittsburgh defense in the air is going to be a tough task, but Ray Rice may be that piece to the puzzle that gets Baltimore a victory on offense and allows them to win these big three match ups this week.