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Countdown to Kickoff: Steelers vs. Ravens

Posted Oct 18, 2013

PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Heinz Field; 4:25 p.m.; CBS

PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB JOE FLACCO
Last season’s Super Bowl MVP will arrive at Heinz Field ranked 26th in the NFL in passer rating (76.2) and having thrown more interceptions (eight) than touchdown passes (seven) through six games this season. Flacco also has been sacked 19 times but is still on pace to throw for 4,539 yards, which would shatter the career-high total of 3,817 he amassed last season. When given time Flacco loves to take shots down the field.

RB RAY RICE
There was a time when the Baltimore offense flowed through the running and receiving abilities of Rice, who was one of three NFL players in 2012 to surpass 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving on the way to 1,621 yards from scrimmage. This season he’s second among Ravens in rushing yards (with 197, behind Bernard Pierce’s 197) and is averaging 2.8 yards per carry and 4.4 yards on 20 receptions. The Steelers traditionally have made Rice their No. 1 defensive priority.

ABOUT THE RAVENS
OVERVIEW
The Ravens’ Super Bowl defense was ambushed by Denver’s Peyton Manning to the tune of 49-27 ambush at Denver. Baltimore has allowed only five touchdowns in five games since then, including none in victories over Cleveland and Houston that immediately followed the Denver loss. The Ravens are 1-0 in the division (a 14-6 win over Cleveland on Sept. 15) and have won 13 of their last 15 games against AFC North opponents.

THE RAVENS’ OFFENSE
Baltimore is No. 22 overall (27th rushing, 12th passing). Eugene Moore, acquired in a trade with Jacksonville on Oct. 3, started at left tackle last Sunday against Green Bay. The Ravens allowed five sacks (including a sack/strip/fumble recovery that set up a Green Bay field goal) and averaged 2.1 yards per rush. Following the Ravens’ 19-17 loss to the Packers, Coach John Harbaugh promised changes “whether it’s personnel changes or more likely scheme changes” in an effort to get the running game going.

THE RAVENS’ DEFENSE
Baltimore is No. 17 overall (seventh rushing, 17th passing). Gone from last season are the players who led the Ravens in interceptions (cornerback Cary Williams with four), tackles (safety Bernard Pollard with 98), and sacks (linebacker Paul Kruger with nine), as well as safety Ed Reed and his 61 career interceptions. But Ravens’ opponents have scored touchdowns on just 25 percent of their red zone opportunities, have converted only 31.2 percent of their third downs and have been sacked 22 times. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (seven) and Elvis Dumervil (five) have combined for 12 of Baltimore’s 22 sacks. The Ravens have allowed one rushing touchdown.

THE RAVENS’ SPECIAL TEAMS
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones is combustible when given an opportunity to run up under kickoffs. Wide receiver Tandon Doss has a punt return for a touchdown this season.