The biggest game of the weekend for the AFC North is probably the biggest game of the season thus far for its respective teams. The Ravens head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers with the division lead on the line. The Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger and will turn to Byron Leftwich to lead the offense. This game has all the makings for an old-school run and defense type of game. Don’t be surprised if this game is never beyond a one possession difference.
Key Matchup: Ravens defense vs. Steelers running backs. The Ravens are no longer the big bad run stopping machine of the last decade. In fact, they rank 26th overall in rush defense per game. The Steelers bring a 3 headed monster to the game that is finally healthy. Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer will all be in action Sunday. Let’s face the facts; the Steelers don’t want Leftwich throwing the ball all over the place. The more they can run the better. On the other hand, the Ravens feel like if they can make Leftwich the pivotal player in the game, they’ll walk out of Pittsburgh with a win. The game will likely be decided on who wins this matchup.
Injury Report: The Ravens have a lot of banged up guys on their defense but all of them are going to give it a go except for Jimmy Smith. They feared that both Ngata and Reed would miss the game but both will suit up and be factors on defense. The Steelers are a different story. Obviously the loss of Big Ben is the major one, but Polamalu will miss his 5th straight game and Antonio Brown will not dress either. The Ravens look to have a decided advantage due to their health.
Player to Watch: Byron Leftwich. This will be the first time in 6 years that he has started a meaningful game. He isn’t a terrible quarterback and he doesn’t need to make spectacular plays. His to do list would be: hand the ball off, complete short passes, and don’t throw interceptions. If he can do those 3 well the Steelers have a great shot at winning.
My Prediction: Ravens 21 Steelers 17. This is going to be a close game. These two bitter rivals are going to leave everything out on the field. I think the Ravens are going to find it very difficult to move the ball on the NFL’s best defense but I think it will be the same for Pittsburgh. Leftwich will make a mistake that will set up Joe Flacco and company with a short field and will be a pivotal moment in the game. I just can’t pick a Byron Leftwich lead team to win this game.