Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers: prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers: prediction, preview, pick to win
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53) points to the Dallas Cowboys defense in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys 35-30 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on November 13,2016. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo


Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Heinz Field. TV: NFLN, Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie, Heather Cox.



42nd meeting. Steelers lead the series, 21-20. Baltimore has won four straight games in this spirited rivalry, including a 21-14 victory on Nov. 6 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Steelers won three of the team's four matchups in the playoffs.


Playoff picture -- Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division title with a win.

While it is win-and-in for Steelers -- their 22nd division title -- the Ravens are fighting to keep a glimmer of playoff hope.

Baltimore has won four consecutive games in Pittsburgh, including the past two. Even with a victory, the Ravens would still likely have to beat Cincinnati in the season finale to clinch the AFC North.


If the Steelers lose, they will be in the familiar position of needing help on the final weekend. Last season, when the Steelers lost to the Ravens on the penultimate weekend, they needed to beat Cleveland on the final week and have the Bills beat the Jets. The Bills obliged, and the Steelers made the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. But it's not something they want to go through again.

Baltimore's success depends on the arm of quarterback Joe Flacco, who is having an uneven season, throwing for 3,888 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

However, Flacco seems to be at his best when the stakes are high. He is 9-7 and has thrown for 3,525 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 16 games against the Steelers.

The Steelers fell behind by three touchdowns in the first game against the Ravens . The 21-14 loss showcased the Ravens' run defense, which limited Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell to 32 yards on 14 carries.

But the Ravens' defense, among the best all season, has shown vulnerability lately. The Eagles rushed for 169 yards last week. The previous week, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns.


The Steelers can attack the Ravens with the run or the pass, with Bell as the pivotal player.


--Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens S Eric Weddle. These two great veterans will pit the mentality of a gunslinger vs. the guile of a professional thief and mugger. In Baltimore last month, Weddle was a big factor in shutting down running back Le'Veon Bell. That was Roethlisberger's first game back from a knee injury, and the Steelers were committed to running the ball and keeping Roethlisberger's knee healthy. If Weddle tries to creep into the box, Roethlisberger must recognize it and check into a passing play that will take advantage of Weddle's aggressiveness.

--Ravens WR Mike Wallace vs. Steelers CB Artie Burns. Burns made his first NFL start against the Ravens last month and recorded his first interception in the first quarter. He also was victimized by Wallace a short time later when Wallace caught a short slant and raced 95 yards for the game's first touchdown. Wallace is Flacco's big-play threat, and Burns has to do a better job in the rematch of limiting his yards after the catch.




--Out: LB Kamalei Correa (ribs), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)

--Questionable: LB Anthony Levine (toe), T Alex Lewis (ankle), WR Steve Smith (thigh), DE Brent Urban (illness)


--Out: S Shamarko Thomas (concussion) --Doubtful: WR Sammie Coates (hamstring), TE Ladarius Green (concussion)

--Questionable: LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle), DE Stephon Tuitt (knee)


Ravens RT Rick Wagner. The versatile lineman has quietly put together the best season of his career. Wagner, a fifth-round pick in 2013, has helped anchor the offensive line and been solid in giving quarterback Joe Flacco time to throw. Wagner also has been durable, starting 13 of the team's 14 games.


Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has thrown eight TD passes vs. three interceptions in the past six games vs. the Steelers.

Ravens WR Steve Smith ranks seventh in NFL history with 14,618 yards receiving.

Ravens S Eric Weddle has 20 tackles, a sack and an interception in his last two games.

Baltimore K Justin Tucker has made 10 field goals of at least 50 yards, tied for the most in an NFL season.


Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger passed for 340 yards and six TDs in the last home meeting.

Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell leads the NFL with 158.8 yards from scrimmage per game.

Steelers LB James Harrison has five sacks in the past four games vs. the Ravens.


A close game. Baltimore has been involved in 11 games decided by eight or fewer points in 2016 (second most in the league), and 25 times overall since the beginning of last season -- most in the NFL. Pittsburgh has played in 13 games decided by eight or fewer points since the beginning of 2015 (fourth fewest in the league).

OUR PICK: Steelers, 32-28.

--Frank Cooney

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