The NFL Playoffs are here, and what better way to kickoff the AFC Wildcard Weekend than with one of the biggest rivalries in sports. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers won the AFC North, but the two teams split their two regular season meetings. So, what happens tonight? We’ll look at this huge matchup in another Wildcard Weekend 5 Questions 5 Answers period.
Q1. Is this Ravens D good enough to remind of us dominating Raven defenses of the past?
A: Potentially. The Ravens have been much better in recent weeks. The pieces are seemingly in place, but for the better part of the season the results hadn’t been. The Ravens are 8th in total yards per game (337) and 4th in rush defense. Respectable numbers. But, Baltimore ranks 23rd in pass defense, and 17th in 3rd down defensive efficiency. Those aren’t numbers we’re used to seeing. Terrell Suggs, is the unquestioned leader on defense. He has to step up and play the way he’s capable. Rookie C.J. Mosley has had a really good season. Getting pressure from Suggs, Mosley and company on Ben Roethlisberger will be vital.
Q2: Can Antonio Brown be enough, by himself to make up for the loss of Le’veon Bell?
A: No. But, with the emergence of Martavius Bryant and Markus Wheaton, the Steelers have three huge weapons that can make big plays down field. With the Ravens being so shaky on pass defense, it’s conceivable that the Steelers could line up and throw themselves to a win. But, we all know that isn’t necessarily Steeler football. Weather conditions could play a factor in that, as well.
Q3: Do the Steelers have enough in the run game with a combination of Josh Harris and Ben Tate to keep the Ravens defense honest?
A: In most situations, probably not. Especially, against the Ravens. But, these are the Steelers and these are the playoffs. We’ve seen huge performances in the past by unsung Steelers, in big time situations. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Harris, Tate, or both have nice games. We’ve seen Tate have good performances in his time in the league. He could turn out to be a good pick up by the Black & Yellow.
Q4. Who has the better performance? Flacco? Big Ben?
A: My guess would be Big Ben. But, Flacco has quietly had a nice season. So, has the Ravens offense as a whole. 2014, daw Baltimore set highs in yards (365 per game), and points (25.6). Flacco’s nearly 4,000 yards was a big part of that. Steve Smith and Torrey Smith can provide big plays in their own right. Of course, Big Ben threw for nearly 1,000 yards more than Flacco, and the Steelers offense was even more prolific (411 yards and 27 points per game) than the Ravens. The stats suggest a shootout tonight. Hard to believe with the history of these two teams.
Q5: Can Justin Forsett continue his breakout season?
A: Absolutely. Forsett has been a serviceable back for several years. Mostly on third down. But, now after the Ray Rice incident, he has his chance. He’s delivered (1,296 yards rushing) and been a huge component of the Ravens offense.