Ravens-Steelers preview

Ravens-Steelers preview
November 17, 2012, 10:00 pm
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Ravens vs. Steelers

at Heinz Field, 8 p.m. ET, NBC

The line: Ravens -3.5.

Last week: Ravens (7-2) beat the Oakland Raiders 55-20; Steelers (6-3) beat the Kansas City Chiefs 16-13 in overtime.

Series: Steelers lead, 18-14.

Last meeting: Ravens won 23-20 on Nov. 6, 2011 to sweep the season series. QB Joe Flacco completed a 26-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith with just 14 seconds left to cap a 92-yard drive at Heinz Field.

Burning question: Can a tattered Ravens defense that has struggled against the run all season hold against the three-headed monster of Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman?

Keys to victory on offense: Except for the first halves of Week 2 at the Philadelphia Eagles and Week 9 at the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have been anemic on the road all season where the hurry-up slows down to 17.5 points per game. The communication isn’t as good and neither is the protection of QB Joe Flacco. Establishing RBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce early will help. Just as important is avoiding 3rd-and-long situations, which could be their downfall against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. If they can put up 21 points against Pittsburgh, that should be enough to get them by.

Keys to victory on defense: Stop the run. With Byron Leftwich in at QB, they should be able to stack the line of scrimmage and limit the Steelers' ability to eat up the clock and move the chains on the ground. That'll put the pressure on Leftwich, who hasn’t started an NFL game since 2009 and has never made a start with the Steelers, to beat them. He’ll undoubtedly take shots at CB Corey Graham, who is replacing the injured Jimmy Smith and making his second start for Baltimore.

Injury report: RAVENS -- Out: CB Jimmy Smith; Doubtful: DE Pernell McPhee (knee); Questionable: DT Terrence Cody (arm); Probable: DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle), LB Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), S Sean Considine (knee/chest), LB Dannell Ellerbe (thumbs), WR Torrey Smith (chest), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder/leg/neck), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle), RB Ray Rice (toe).  STEELERS -- Out: QB Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/ribs), S Troy Polamalu (calf), WR Antonio Brown (ankle), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle); Questionable: LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring); Probable: CB Curtis Brown (thigh), S Ryan Clark (concussion), DE Brett Keisel (shoulder), RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles), T Max Starks (ankle), CB Ivan Taylor (illness).

Prediction: Ravens 17-13.