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Countdown to kickoff: Steelers vs. Ravens


Here is a look at the statistical leaders for the both the Steelers and Ravens heading into Thursday night's primetime AFC North contest.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-3)* * Thursday, Oct 1, 2015**
Heinz Field
8:25 p.m.

SERIES HISTORY:Steelers lead, 21-17, regular season (Steelers lead, 3-1, postseason).

LAST MEETING:Ravens 30, Steelers 17, 2014 Wild Card Playoff, Jan. 3, 2015, Heinz Field: The Steelers held the ball for 35:17 but went 1-for-3 in the Red Zone and 1-for-2 in Goal-to-Go minus RB Le'Veon Bell, who had injured a knee in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati. Baltimore survived and advanced thanks in part to scoring drives of 80, 70, 57 and 69 yards. The Ravens broke open a 23-15 game with a 21-yard dagger from QB Joe Flacco to TE Crocket Gillmore one play after a Steelers turnover midway through the fourth quarter.

LAST WEEK:The Steelers improved to 2-1 with a 12-6 victory at St. Louis that cost them the services of QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee) for an indefinite period. The Ravens fell to 0-3 for the first time in franchise history with a 28-24 loss to Cincinnati at home.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL:Getting it to WR Steve Smith Sr. has been working. Smith, 36, caught 13 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals. He's still able to make people miss or run through tackles after the catch in his 15th NFL season. He can still make the competitive, combative catches and he still likes to yap about it afterward. And he still knows where the first-down sticks and the goal lines are located. Even an IV applied in response to cramps only slowed him down momentarily against the Bengals.

QB Joe Flacco has been less of a sure thing (four TD passes, four INTs through three games). Injured WR Breshad Perriman, a 2015 first-round pick, has yet to see the field and won't at Heinz Field, which will continue to limit Flacco's down-the-field options. He'll still throw it deep, but he's also thrown a lot of screens, quick-outs, shallow crosses and check-downs. TE Maxx Williams, a 2015 second-round pick, and Gillmore have combined for 15 catches. Gillmore, the bigger target at 270 pounds, has two receiving TDs but has also been declared out for the Steelers game.

The offensive line has been without LT Eugene Monroe since he sustained a concussion in the regular-season opener at Denver and will be again in Pittsburgh. And the Ravens have been without a consistent running game all season (3.3 yards per carry, one TD; starting RB Justin Forsett averages 3.2 yards per attempt). Baltimore ran five times for a combined 1 yard in the second half against Cincinnati. The offense was responsible for seven of the 13 penalties the Ravens incurred against the Bengals (up from 10 total penalties in Baltimore's Sept. 20 visit to Oakland) and has converted just 32.5 percent of its third downs.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL:The Ravens' defense has been feast or famine and was both on back-to-back snaps against Cincinnati. Trailing 14-10 in the fourth quarter, Baltimore came up with an old Ravens' staple, a sack-strip-scoop-score TD (sack and forced fumble by LB Elvis Dumervil, recovery and return by LB C.J. Mosley). But on the next play the Ravens surrendered an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown to WR A.J. Green. Baltimore also had a pick-six at Denver and surrendered a 68-yard TD pass at Oakland.

NT Brandon Williams has been a 335-pound handful and the run defense has been representative if not impenetrable (No. 7 in yards allowed, 252, and No. 4 in yards per carry, 3.4). The Ravens have taken to blitzing a little more often and with a few more bodies on occasion on first and second down to combat the loss of LB Terrell Suggs (season-ending Achilles injury in the Broncos game), and have seven sacks on the season. They were the first team to get to Bengals QB Andy Dalton.

Baltimore plays a variety of coverage in the secondary but hasn't been consistent in executing them. CB Jimmy Smith (24-yard pick-six at Denver) followed Green almost all the time in the Bengals game. Smith wasn't victimized on Green's 80-yard TD, but Green wound up with 10 catches for 227 yards and two scores on the day. No. 3 CB Rashaan Melvin committed three penalties and was beaten for a 16-yard TD in the first 18 minutes of the Bengals game. He was eventually replaced by CB Kyle Arrington. FS Will Hill was repeatedly late providing deep help against the Bengals, who passed for 383 yards in Baltimore. The Ravens gave up game-winning TDs with 30 seconds left against the Raiders and with 2:16 remaining against the Bengals.


SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS:**The Ravens ran a fake punt from their 27-yard line down 14-0 in the second quarter against the Bengals (it worked when up-back Anthony Levine, Sr. fumbled the ball forward and recovered). K Justin Tucker missed a field goal attempt for the first time in 2015 in the Cincinnati game (50 yards). He's 15-for-22 all-time from 50-plus yards and he's the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history overall (104-for-116, 89.7 percent).

THE X-FACTOR:How will QB Mike Vick perform in his first start with the Steelers? How will the Steelers respond to Vick? How limited, if at all, will the offense be minus Roethlisberger? Stay tuned.

THEY SAID IT:"It's a great opportunity for me. I don't know if I'm going to have this opportunity ever again. Just a month ago I wasn't signed with a team. Now, I feel like I have a chance to go out and just play freely, go out and enjoy the game, enjoy this moment, enjoy being out there with my teammates. It's up to me to go handle it like a professional. It's something I look forward to doing." _ Vick on starting against Baltimore.

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