The fiercest rivalry in the NFL is again reborn. This Sunday marks the 49th time that the two the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have met. The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh looking to crack a three-game losing streak suffered at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. The Ravens and Steelers rivalry is one characterized by grit and hard-nosed football. When the two foes meet, two old-school teams grind it out on the football field. Both teams have a culture of winning, and neither wants to see the other team ever come out on top. To ensure a Ravens victory on Sunday night, here are three keys that the Ravens must realize.
Hold Antonio Brown
It is virtually impossible to thwart the deadly force known as Antonio Brown. It is undisputed that Brown is among the best receivers in the National Football League. Brown essentially runs the Steelers passing game. His critical role makes him paramount to defend. The Ravens will not shut down Antonio Brown, but if the defense can hold him to an average performance, Baltimore will greatly benefit. This will be difficult for the Ravens, as the team is entering Pittsburgh with just four healthy cornerbacks. Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett are injured, and superstar cornerback Jimmy Smith is on suspension. Without Smith, Baltimore must rely on Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey to cover Brown.
Continue a Strong Offensive Attack
The Baltimore Ravens have always relied on the defense to win games. However, that seems to have changed this season. While the defense is still an asset for the Ravens, the value of the offensive improvement cannot be understated. The Baltimore Ravens for the past several years lacked any offensive thunder, now the unit is performing at a level never seen before. The offense so far has mostly centered around Joe Flacco and the passing attack. While this strategy has yielded two wins so far, the Ravens need to get Alex Collins more involved. Collins saw more action against the Broncos but failed to be a dominant force. Against the Steelers, Collins must dominate on the ground.
Special Team Superiority
Special teams have been a difficulty for the Steelers so far this season. Steelers kicker Chris Boswell has missed several key field goals this season and has hindered the Steelers. The Ravens are coming off a game of special teams mistakes. Most games between the Ravens-Steelers are extremely close, and just a slight upper hand in any department could swing the outcome of the game. The Ravens need to capitalize on the shorthanded Steelers special teams unit and outplay them. This is very likely as the Wolfpack consisting of kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox the best special teams units in the league.
The Ravens will ultimately lose the game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Baltimore will likely split the series this year with the Steelers, but a win against a motivated team in Pittsburgh will be difficult to attain. The Ravens with only four healthy cornerbacks and without Jimmy Smith will be unable to shut down Antonio Brown. The Ravens will get a run game going, and perform better in the special teams department. But ultimately, the Ravens inability to stop Antonio Brown will come back to bite. The final score will be 31-28, in favor of Pittsburgh.