PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2-1) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 43rd regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 22-20. The Steelers snapped a four-game losing streak against the Ravens with their 31-27 victory on Christmas Day last year, a win that clinched the AFC North. The Ravens are 12-9 all-time in games played in Baltimore and have won the past four at M&T Bank Stadium. The last time the Steelers won there was 2012.
KEYS TO THE GAME: For the Steelers it's simple: Get the running game back on track. The Steelers are 27th in the NFL in rushing and Le'Veon Bell, the highest-paid running back in the league, has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game. Coach Mike Tomlin doesn't seem too concerned. He said falling behind against the Bears prevented the Steelers from running more than they did. Traditionally, the Ravens are strong against the run although they allowed 166 to the Jaguars last week in their 44-7 loss in London. If Bell gets going, look for QB Ben Roethlisberger to bounce back from a sub-par game against the Bears in which he was 22 for 39 for 235 yards passing. He missed several open receivers throughout the game.
It's just as easy to identify what the Ravens must do if they want to beat their AFC North rival: Kick their offense into gear. Coming into the game, the Ravens are dead-last in the NFL in total offense (263 yards per game) and tied for 23rd in scoring (17 points per game). Ravens QB Joe Flacco is trying to recover from the worst game of his career. He completed 8 of 18 pass attempts for a career-worst 28 yards with two interceptions against the Jaguars. Flacco finished with a quarterback rating of 12.0. The Ravens secondary better quickly forget last week's debacle against the Jaguars and QB Blake Bortles, who torched them for four touchdown passes. After getting 10 turnovers and eight sacks in the first two games, the Ravens were blanked in both categories against the Jaguars. That unit suffered another blow Wednesday when defensive end Brent Urban was placed on IR and lost for the season, the 16th Baltimore player to suffer that fate.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Steelers tight ends vs. Ravens linebackers. Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis caught three touchdown passes against the Ravens last week. The Steelers will try to take advantage of the Ravens linebackers with their trio of tight ends. Jesse James caught two touchdowns in the opener against the Browns, but Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble are better at stretching the field and winning matchups against linebackers.
--Ravens WR Mike Wallace vs. Steelers CB Artie Burns. Wallace is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL and will test the second-year corner. In last year's meeting in Baltimore, Wallace beat Burns for a 95-yard touchdown in the Ravens' 21-14 win. If Burns wins this matchup Sunday the Steelers will have a big advantage because the Ravens aren't blessed with talented receivers after Wallace.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--Questionable: S Sean Davis (ankle), G Ramon Foster (thumb), T Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), LB James Harrison (illness), S Michael Mitchell (hamstring)
--Out: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
--Questionable: TE Benjamin Watson (calf)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Pittsburgh DE Cameron Heyward. With Ravens All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda out for the season, Heyward is going to have an opportunity to do some damage against a retooled Ravens line. Heyward had a great game against the Vikings, but he'll be looking to rebound after a team-wide poor effort against the Bears.
FAST FACTS: QB Ben Roethlisberger has 13 touchdown passes with six interceptions for a 91.6 quarterback rating in the past seven meetings against the Ravens. RB Le'Veon Bell had 98 yards from scrimmage yards and ran for a touchdown last week. He averages 108.1 yards per game with five touchdowns in seven games against the Ravens. WR Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown last week. He leads the NFL with 26 catches and 354 receiving yards. LB Ryan Shazier had 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in last week's overtime loss to Chicago. He has three straight games with nine-plus tackles against the Ravens. ... QB Joe Flacco has 10 touchdown passes with four interceptions in the past eight games against the Steelers. He is the all-time Baltimore leader with 2,957 completions, 33,005 passing yards and 185 passing touchdowns. RB Terrance West has rushed for a touchdown in two of the past three games against Pittsburgh. The Ravens are one of two teams (Washington is the other) with three players (West, Allen and Alex Collins) with 100-plus rushing rush yards. LB C.J. Mosley recorded eight tackles last week. He had an interception and tackle for loss last time the two teams met. LB Terrell Suggs has 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in 12 career home meetings against Pittsburgh. He 117.5 career sacks are the most in franchise history.
PREDICTION: The Ravens traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and were embarrassed by Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars in London while the Steelers were gashed by the Bears. Twelve of the past 18 matchups between Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been decided by three points or fewer. This one could also come down to the final possession. Playing in front of the home crowd should be a little more comforting for Joe Flacco.
OUR PICK: Ravens, 23-20