Countdown to kickoff: Steelers at Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) vs. Baltimore Ravens (4-10)
Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015
M&T Bank Stadium
1 p.m.


Here is a look at the statistical leaders for the both the Steelers and Ravens heading into the Week 16 contest at M&T Bank Stadium.

SERIES HISTORY: **Steelers lead, 21-18 (Steelers lead, 3-1, postseason)

LAST MEETING: Ravens 23, Steelers 20 (OT), Oct. 1, 2015, Heinz Field: Ravens K Justin Tucker got the game to overtime with a 42-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation and then won it from 52 yards out in the extra session. The Steelers let a 20-7 third-quarter lead slip away, in part because K Josh Scobee missed field-goal attempts from 49 yards out with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter and from 41 yards away with 1:06 left in regulation. The Steelers also failed to convert two fourth downs in overtime. QB Mike Vick was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 39-yard line and Vick threw incomplete for WR Antonio Brown on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 33.

LAST TIME OUT:The Steelers rallied from a 27-10 deficit and beat the Broncos, 34-27, at Heinz Field. The Ravens were beaten by the Chiefs, 34-14, in Baltimore. * *

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL:They'll continue trying to achieve some consistency, as they have been ever since losing QB Joe Flacco on Nov. 22. It's been an uphill climb. Baltimore has tried Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen since Flacco went down and may yet turn to Ryan Mallett. But the problems in Baltimore go beyond the quarterback position.

In addition to Flacco, WR Breshad Perriman (a No. 1 pick this year), RB Justin Forsett, OT Eugene Monroe, TE Crockett Gillmore and WR Steve Smith Sr. are on the Reserve/Injured list, and TE Dennis Pitta never made it off the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Ravens relied on, among others, RBs Terrance West and Terrence Magee, TE Konrad Reuland and WRs Jeremy Butler, Daniel Brown and Chris Matthews at the skill positions against KC, and all six of those players spent time on Baltimore's practice squad this season. WR Chris Givens was an in-season trade acquisition from St. Louis. Without continuity it's difficult to achieve consistency.

Clausen started at QB against the Chiefs and saw his career record as a starter with Carolina, Chicago and Baltimore drop to 1-13. (Mallett is 2-4 and has bounced from New England to Houston to Baltimore since 2011). Clausen has directed 41 drives this season and they've resulted in two touchdowns and two field goals. The two TDs came against the Chiefs, one on a 45-yard march after a long kickoff return and one on a 48-yard 'Hail Mary' that ended the first half (he also threw a pick-six against the Chiefs). WR Kamar Aiken hauled in the 'Hail Mary' as part of an eight-catch, 128-yard afternoon and has caught at least five passes in seven straight games. Of the five receivers dressed against Kansas City, Aiken was the only one on Baltimore's opening-day roster (he had five catches for 77 yards and a TD in the first meeting with the Steelers).


WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL: **They'll face a defense that hasn't resembled its Baltimore predecessors of late, one that has also been depleted by injury (although not nearly to the degree the Baltimore offense has been).

The Ravens still fly to the football well enough at times, but this is a unit that also allowed Chiefs RB Charcandrick West to rumble 38 yards for a touchdown untouched on a first-quarter third-and-1. NT Brandon Williams is a handful in the middle and rookie OLB Za'Darius Smith has been active splitting time with OLBs Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw, but the Ravens still allowed 4.0 yards per carry against the Chiefs and permitted QB Alex Smith to complete 21 of 25 passes. Baltimore was also undisciplined against Kansas City (DT Timmy Jernigan's out-of-bounds hit on Smith turned what would have been a punting situation into a Kansas City first down).

The pressure isn't being generated the way it used to be in Baltimore (LB Terrell Suggs is on IR, as is DE Chris Canty) and sacks are down from 49 last season to 31 through 14 games this season (Dumervil has fallen from 17 to six). The secondary has become more vulnerable as a result. The Ravens lost CB Jimmy Smith (thigh) after the first series against Kansas City and turned to sub-package CB Shareece Wright as a base-defense CB and to CB Jumal Rolle as the new sub-package addition  (Rolle spent time on the practice squad this season and, like Wright, wasn't on the Ravens' roster at the outset of the season). Base-defense CB Lardarius Webb played in the slot in the sub-package stuff and has struggled at times this season (particularly on Dec. 13 against the Seahawks).

SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS:The Ravens tried a fake punt on fourth-and-9 from their 17-yard line against the Chiefs (P Sam Koch's up-the-middle run was stopped 2 yards short). Tucker also beat St. Louis with a last-play, 47-yard field goal on Nov. 22 (16-13) but he missed from 55 with 2:47 left in what became a 15-13 loss on Dec. 6 at Miami. The Ravens beat the Browns, 33-27, on Nov. 30 in Cleveland on a 64-yard return of a blocked field goal for a touchdown by S Will Hill III. WR Kaelin Clay has an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown this season. ** *

THE X-FACTOR: Head coach John Harbaugh told CBS TV prior to the Kansas City game that the Ravens' 35-6 loss to the Seahawks in Baltimore was "by far" his team's worst performance of the season. Then the Ravens went out and lost to the Chiefs by 20 at home. Baltimore's first 12 games were all decided by eight points or fewer (the first time in NFL history that's happened). But in the last two games the Ravens haven't been competitive. Will the Ravens rally against their rival, the Steelers? Or, is Baltimore running on fumes after a season's worth of crippling injuries and near- miss losses and no longer capable of putting up enough of a fight?

THEY SAID IT: "Baltimore, that's the only thing that's creeping into anybody's mind. Try to go beat an AFC North opponent at their place." _ Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on whether he's thinking about potentially clinching a spot in the playoffs this weekend.* *

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