1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Steelers

1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Steelers
November 17, 2012, 10:00 pm
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1. Joe Flacco will throw for 200+ yards ...

On Flacco's past two regular-season visits to Pittsburgh, he threw for 300 and 256 yards, respectively, and the Ravens won both. He was held under 200 yards in his first two games there. Flacco will be staring down the No. 1 pass defense in the league, as the Steelers allow 171 passing yards a game. Flacco hasn't played well at times on the road, but Heinz Field has been a very notable exception.

2. ... But Byron Leftwich will not.

Byron Leftwich will be making his first start since 2009 in place of Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, ribs), and the Steelers' passing strategy tends to emphasize short 'dink and dunk' throws. The Ravens need to make sure they wrap up and tackle, so short passes don't turn into long gains. Leftwich has the arm to make big throws, but one of his big-play threats, wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) is also out.

3. Torrey Smith will have a catch of 25+ yards.

If Smith proved anything last year at Heinz Field, it's that he can get behind the Steelers secondary. He dropped what would have been a 37-yard touchdown pass in the final minute when he was open by two steps, and then a few plays later, he hauled in a 26-yard touchdown after he got behind cornerback William Gay. Flacco will look deep to Smith again.

4. The Steelers will run more than they pass.

With Roethlisberger out, and running back Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) likely back, the Steelers game plan likely will be to be run, run and run some more with a three-headed monster of Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. They will likely keep doing it until the Ravens, ranked 26th against the run, shows they can stop it.

5. The Steelers will have at least 140 yards rushing.

See above. The Steelers average about 103 yards a game rushing, which ranks 21st in the league, right behind the Ravens. But with Roethlisberger out, the running game takes on much greater importance. They will pound the ball on the ground, and even if the Ravens make them earn it, the yardage will ultimately pile up.

6. There will be a missed field goal.

Heinz Field, with its swirling winds along the Allegheny River, has not been kind to kickers over the years. This season, the Steelers' Shaun Suisham has defied the odds, going 10-for-10 at home thus far. There has been at least one missed field goal in the past three Ravens-Steelers games at Heinz Field.

7. Steelers tight end Heath Miller will have at least five catches.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) is out. The Steelers offense insists it will keep its same short-passing scheme with Byron Leftwich in there in place of Ben Roethlisberger. All signs point to Miller being a big part of the Steelers passing attack. He has a team-high 43 receptions, which works out to about five a game.

8. Byron Leftwich will be sacked at least twice.

Leftwich is known to have a slow delivery, and the Ravens need to expose that with pressure. The Steelers have allowed 19 sacks, same as the Ravens. Two keys will be Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. Can Ngata, who sat out last week (shoulder, knee), destroy the pocket up the middle? Can Suggs regain his explosiveness on the edge?

9. There will be at least one personal foul penalty.

This is Ravens-Steelers. Some of the game's classic archvillains -- Hines Ward, Ray Lewis -- are out of action, but this game figures to be physical, intense and chippy from the start. Thank goodness the replacement refs are gone or this could get out of hand. The regular officials will have their hands full, though.

10. Steelers 17, Ravens 16

A lot of signs point to a Ravens win, the biggest ones being on the Steelers sideline -- Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Antonio Brown all in street clothes. Plus, Joe Flacco has played well at Heinz Field. But the Ravens aren't at 100 percent either, especially on defense, and they have to find a way to stop the Steelers' running game. It's the league's No. 27 defense (Ravens) against the league's No. 1 defense (Steelers), and in a game like this, I'll take the better defense at home.