Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
M&T Bank Stadium
8:25 p.m.; CBS
SERIES HISTORY: Steelers lead, 23-16 (3-0 postseason). Pittsburgh won six of the first eight meetings in Baltimore's first four NFL seasons. Since 2000 the teams have split the 28 regular season games, 14-14. The last five meetings have been decided by three points or fewer (the Ravens have outscored the Steelers by a combined, 94-92, during that span).
LAST MEETING**: Ravens 22, Steelers 20, Nov. 28, 2013, M&T Bank Stadium. The Steelers scored with 1:03 remaining on a 1-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery but were unable to successfully execute a two-point conversion (WR Emmanuel Sanders dropped Roethlisberger's pass in the end zone).
LAST WEEK: The Steelers blew a 27-3 halftime lead but still beat the Browns, 30-27, on Shaun Suisham's last-play, 41-yard field goal. In Baltimore, the Ravens rallied from a 15-0 deficit and took a 16-15 lead late in the fourth quarter but surrendered a subsequent 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green and lost to the Bengals, 23-16.
WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL: New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's history in Houston and Denver suggests the Steelers should expect a heavy dose of outside-zone running and play-action passes. But Baltimore fell behind against Cincinnati and wound up attempting 62 passes and 26 runs. Drops were a problem against the Bengals, particularly in the first half. Minus RB Ray Rice, the Ravens turned to Bernard Pierce and then to Justin Forsett after Pierce lost a fumble in the second quarter. Forsett produced the first rushing touchdown (a 13-yard scamper) by a Baltimore running back since Nov. 17, 2013 (a span of 174 rushing attempts).
When the passing game was working against the Bengals it was usually because the ball was coming out of the pocket quickly, especially when the Ravens went with an empty set (shots down the field were infrequent). TE Dennis Pitta, often working out of the slot, and WR Steve Smith were targeted a combined 30 times (15 each). QB Joe Flacco was often on the move in the pocket, either by design or out of necessity. He improvised an 80-yard, catch-and-run touchdown to Smith that gave Baltimore a fourth quarter lead. Flacco was sacked on the last play of the first half and also on the last two plays of the game, plays that originated from the Cincinnati 15, 16, and 21-yard lines, respectively.
Baltimore didn't run the no-huddle offense against Cincinnati except in the closing minutes of the second and fourth quarters. The Ravens have run it outside of two-minute situations against the Steelers recently.
Highlight photos from the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 22-20.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL**: They'll have to deal with what the Ravens traditionally offer, a fly-to-the-football, physical defense that regularly shows blitz at the line of scrimmage but most often rushes only four. New or relatively new faces abound, but OLB Terrell Suggs still crashes pockets off either edge and DT Haloti Ngata is still a load in the middle. The front seven of the Ravens' defense goes at least 10 deep.
CB Chykie Brown has been filling in for injured starter Lardarius Webb (back). Brown and S Darian Stewart were beaten for what turned out to be the Bengals' game-winning, 77-yard touchdown reception by WR A.J. Green with 4:58 remaining.
The Steelers scored 27 points in the first half and three in the second half against the Browns. Their use of the no-huddle offense was curtailed in part by field position issues in the third and fourth quarters. They still came within 3 yards of finishing with a 300-yard passer (Roethlisberger, 365), a 100-yard rusher (RB Le'Veon Bell, 109) and two 100-yard receivers (WR Antonio Brown, 116; WR Markus Wheaton, 97).
SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS**: The Ravens blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt by Cincinnati PK Mike Nugent. WR Jacoby Jones has five touchdowns on kickoff returns (including the postseason) and four on punt returns in his career. Suisham has nine game-winning kicks in his career (seven with the Steelers).
THE X-FACTOR: Rice went from being suspended to having his contract terminated on Monday. Will the Ravens be distracted or come together in the face of internal adversity?
THEY SAID IT: "What we've showed is if you want to huddle and play against us we'll do fine, but this no-huddle (offense) has given us some problems. We got to do something to rectify that. Coach (Dick) LeBeau is the genius of all defensive coordinators, and he'll figure it out." – Steelers SS Troy Polamalu.
"It definitely feels like a Ravens-Pittsburgh week. It wouldn't be Ravens-Steelers without a little controversy." – Suggs.