I will now make my prediction for the game now that Jen has been officially ruled out.
Despite what their stats say, the Steelers are far from the number 1 defense in the league. Part of their defensive success has been down to who they've played. As it stands, they have only played two championship calibre QB's, one who they were torched by in week 1 (Peyton), and the other who is not playing championship football right now, actually it's pretty below average football (Eli). The QB's that they have lost have been to average vets who are way past their primes (Hassleback, and Palmer). The Steelers strength on defense lies in their secondary. All three of their corners have been having good seasons, especially Cortez Allen in the slot, and both their safeties have been playing at a pro bowl level, and that's with the hair out. However, it looks like both their starting safeties (Ryan Clark, and Allen) will be out for this game, and that was really where their strength was. Their weakness despite popular belief is in their front 7.
Their pass rush has been inconsistent this year, Woodley has been having a stellar year, but his production has been effected because of the ineptitude of James Harrison, who is arguably having his worst year as a Steeler. The Steelers also have some serious issues on their Dline, much like ours, they cannot dominate the line of scrimmage. Casey Hampton has been terrible this year, along with Ziggy Hood, who may be the worst starting 5 technique in football right now. Brett Kiesel is the best player out of the three, but has been far from spectacular this year. Ziggy Hood, and Kiesel had decent games against KC, but it was going up against a weak interior Oline that is missing one or two starters. At LB, they have an absolute stud in Timmons, who is finally emerging as the best ILB in the AFCN, and has been having his best year as a pro. He will soon be in the same class as Patrick Willis, Brian Cushing, Novoro Bowman, and the likes. He can do it all, drop back in coverage, stuff the run, and bring inside blitz. IMO he is the best player on that defense, and we really need to find a way to take him out of the game, second level blocking has to be good, which is why we should start Reid at LG, or move KO inside for this one. Larry Foote is a servicable LB at best at this point, and looks better on highlight film because of who he's playing next to.
So with that said, here is how our offense should attack their D.
Up front, move Oher to the right side, and start McKinnie at LT. This may sound a bit crazy, but we could essentially neutralize the Steelers pass rushing presence from the left side with McKinnie who is our best pure OT in pass pro, and will completely dominate an under performing Harrison, who hasn't had the greatest of match ups against McKinnie in the past anyway. Oher provides much better pass pro than KO at this point on the right side, and I am slightly worried with KO matching up with Woodley, who has been very good this year. Moving KO inside would make our Oline much stronger, and I think would over power the under whelming Steelers Dline, even with the crowd noise, if our aim is to run the ball early.
Use Ray Rice and Pierce early and often, with Leach on the field for as many snaps as possible. We can run the ball on this D, they aren't all that great against the run, and haven't been since 2010. Adapt to the ZBS, and get this D on their heels to begin with, we need to get second level blocks from KO to take Timmons out of the game, and Yanda vs Ziggy is a complete miss match I am very much looking forward to. Hopefully after having success running the ball, and maybe taking some crowd noise away, we can start taking some shots down field, but we cannot afford to go one dimensional like we did in Houston, this is a very good pass defense, and will make us pay for uncreative routes and the usual BS you see from this offense on the road. We need to take some shots down the middle with Pitta and Boldin, because without Clark, and Allen, that is going to be a huge hole in their D. That's where I see most of the passing production coming from in this game, right down the middle, we need to be aware of Timmons too though as he is very solid in coverage.
With that said, my stat predictions are...
Flacco gets 2 TD's, a pick (by Ike Taylor), 220 yards. Finishes 19 for 30. He will be sacked 3 times, two by Woodley, and one by Timmons
Rice runs for 102 yards on 22 carries, Pierce gets 6 runs for 30 yards.
Boldin goes for 65 yards on 6 catches, Pitta gets 7 catches for 70 yards, Torrey Smith gets a TD and 3 receptions for 50 yards, Jacoby gets a TD with a 15 yard reception, and Rice gets two receptions for 20 yards. We score 20 points, and get 353 yards of total offense. Tucker gets two FG's, one from 40, one from 25.
Now onto their offense, and our defense.
The Steelers have improved drastically of late up front, their Oline has now become one of their main strengths. Mike Adams has stepped up as a good run blocking RT, and the Steelers interior line is now among the best in the league with Colon and Pouncey playing well together. Max Starks is their main weakness, and he's playing on the left side, so Suggs will hopefully have a good day as he has had in the past vs Starks. Kruger and Upshaw vs Adams should be interesting.
The Steelers are running a commitee of backs this year, featuring Dwyer and Redman, two big strong backs, that don't offer much other than pounding the ball up the middle (which they've done well this year so far.). Our Dline is going to have to step up in this one, as our main weakness has been stopping the run up the middle. Terrence Cody played well last week, and we need more of the same from him. Most of the Steelers success up the middle is down to Colon and Pouncey, who have been opening up some big holes for Redmand and Dwyer, we need to make sure we stop that, as the Steelers will be running the ball a ton of times with big Jen out. Leftwich is not going to be throwing all that much. The Steelers have a very talented receiving core, even without Antonio Brown, they are going to beat our secondary more times than not now that we are down to our last options with so many injuries there. Cary Williams has been playing well lately, and will hopefully continue to do so, but outside of him, I am very worred about how the likes of Chykie Brown, and Corey Grahame will fair against the likes of Mike Wallace and Sanders. The good news is that Leftwich will be throwing them the ball, and I don't expect him to be throwing all that often anyway, he is best throwing it down field with his strong but slow release, but Todd Haily likes short and quick passes, which is just not his game. It is going to allow us to essentially stack the box, and overload on blitzes, don't be surprised to see Pollard spend 90 % of the game roaming around the box and coming up in run support.
In order to stop the Steelers offense, IMO we should do the following basic gameplan....
Stack the box early on, with even 9 men at times, the Steelers are going to be running the ball more than usual. I wont be surprised to see something crazy like over 35 carries between Dwyer and Redman. Leftwich can't escape the pocket, and that's the key in this game IMO, once the pocket breaks down, I can see Suggs getting to him often and will get one or two sacks. We need to overload blitz against them, and pretty much challenge Leftwich to throw the ball and try to win the game off his arm. It's just a question on whether or not we will be able to stop the run.
And the stats...
Leftwich will throw 2 picks to Cary Williams, and Reed. He will go for 200 yards, with no TD's. He will be sacked 4 times, and will lose a fumble.
Redman will pick up 60 yards on 17 carries, Dwyer will get 90 on 20 carries and a rushing TD.
The Steelers will score 10 points on us, with a TD and two FG's. Picking up 350 total yards of offense.
Suggs will get two sacks going up against Max Starks, Kruger and Ellerbe get a sack each. Reed and Williams get an interception each, and Ngata will cause a fumble which will be recovered by DeAngelo Tyson.
Final score- 20-13 Ravens.
Absolutely no rational reason; just my "little voice" (and two double Buffalo Trace."
I think the Ravens will win. But nobody can predict specifics. And, Manning did not torch the Steelers defense. Did you see the stats? Manning threw for about 10 more yards than Roethlisberger. They both threw for 2 TD's. By that logic, Roethlisberger torched the Broncos D too. Ben threw a pick, but I think that was during a end of game drive for a lead. And of course I think Manning came back after that for a score with the good field position. Don't forget about Rainey. He is a guy that can turn the corner, and fast.
I want the Steelers to come out blitzing and slinging the football. If they lose 50 - 0 then so be it. I don't want them to come out and play a wait and see game waiting to see that the Ravens will bring. Go all out or go all the way.
As I said, I predict a Ravens win. Maybe by two touchdowns. However, if they can pressure Flacco I think they can force some mistakes. Too bad Harrison has virtually disappeared. Despite what anybody thinks or says, these games can go either way. Any outcome will not surprise me.
They will win with a FG in the final minute
Ugly football per usual.
I predict that, as is usually the case when we play the Stealers, that I'll chew my fingernails down to the nub, my BP will be through the roof, and will be dangerously close to going into cardiac arrest, particularly during the last 2 minutes of the 4th qtr.
38-28 Ravens with the steelers last 14 points being in garbage time. Ravens dominate throughout. Flacco plays his best football against the steelers.
It won't be the usual classic defensive showdown. I think I, like most, had this down as a loss before the season. With Ben out, as much as you still have to beat the other 52 guys as well, it's hard to pick against a Ravens team that's won the last two regular season games at Heinz Field.
Think it'll be error filled. Pittsburgh 16, Baltimore 19. Both TDs probably come off long plays, but Tucker has the last laugh.