Game Day Matchups

The top matchups in today's Ravens-Steelers game at Heinz Field

ILB Lawrence Timmons vs. RB Ray Rice

Rice suffered a knee contusion in the Ravens in the Week 3 win over Cleveland, and while his status going into the game was questionable, Rice was seen walking fine at practice all week. But Baltimore has struggled to get Rice rolling so far this season. Yet, he's a game-breaker and poses mismatch issues in both run and pass defense.

Timmons has been destructive through three games, leading the team with 33 tackles. He looks comfortable and is playing better than ever. His speed and quickness can match Rice's over a few yards, and his ability to slow Rice down and not allow him room in the open field will be critical in the Steelers success in Week 4.

OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley vs. OTs Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda

Facing Baltimore in Pittsburgh has been good for the Steelers' outside linebackers. In 2008, it was Harrison who destroyed the Ravens' line, ripping his way through to 11 tackles and 2½ sacks in the Steelers' win over the Ravens. In 2009, the torching was passed to Woodley, who pulled down Ravens QB Joe Flacco twice in two plays to give the Steelers another win against the Ravens. Woodley had 7 QB pressures against Tampa Bay in Week 3, and has 2½ sacks on the season. Harrison was AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 2.

The Ravens look like they have one of the strongest tackle combinations they've had since Jonathan Ogden played. Yanda replaced Jared Gaither and Oneil Cousins, two players Harrison and Woodley have crushed over the last two years, at right tackle, and has performed well. Oher moved from the right side to the left, and is the anchor of the Ravens' line that will need to protect Flacco if they are to compete against a dominant pass rush.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Anquan Boldin

ESPN The Magazine reported recently that Taylor has been penalized for more yards due to pass interference calls than anyone else in the league since 2007. Viewing the glass half full, that's at least partially because Taylor has been the Steelers' iron horse in the secondary, not having missed a game during that time, and partially due to Taylor's sometimes assignment on the opponents' best receiver. While his battery mate, Bryant McFadden, is generally playing well, and the Ravens have multiple receiving threats, Taylor will be on Boldin more often than not.

Boldin brings with him a mountain of hype, and he blew up in Week 3 for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns. Taylor can take away a lot on film from Browns CB Eric Wright. Boldin and Flacco exploited Wright frequently, and their big performances were due as much to Wright looking in the backfield as anything else. Boldin has 16 catches and 202 yards with a touchdown in two games against Pittsburgh in his career. He shows the ability to catch passes in between the seams as well as outside the numbers, and with the Steelers' aggressive pass rush, Boldin could be an effective weapon to push the Steelers into a Cover-2 defense, which would help their running game.

QB Joe Flacco vs. SS Troy Polamalu

After a brutal performance in Week 2 against Cincinnati, in which Flacco tossed 4 interceptions, Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wanted to give his young passer an easy completion to start the game. Flacco looked as uncomfortable as he ever has in floating a pass to WR Derrick Mason in the short flat. Browns SS T.J. Ward was so surprised the pass was coming with that little intensity, he forgot to catch it before he started running for what would have been a touchdown. Flacco calmed down and exploited an often-confused Wright to help Boldin win Player of the Week honors.

Flacco won't get second chances from Polamalu. While Flacco's numbers were impressive, Cleveland's secondary did not support the excellent run-stopping performance of its front seven. But Polamalu is at his best around the line of scrimmage, and can provide Flacco with several confusing looks that can lead to bad decisions.

WR Mike Wallace vs. FS Tom Zbikowski

Zbikowski isn't exactly known for his speed. Wallace certainly is. He was able to get behind Tampa Bay FS Cody Grimm and CB Aqib Talib in Week 2. While Grimm lost track of one ball, and Talib tipped another to Wallace in the back of the end zone, Wallace took the top off the defense and the Steelers gashed the Buccaneers with the run. The Ravens have to respect the big play, and that puts pressure on Zbikowski.

Will he play the run or the deep pass? All it takes in a Ravens-Steelers game is one mistake. If Wallace can force him into that mistake, the Steelers have an advantage. Like Wallace said after Week 2, Batch will get him the ball if he sees his defender's back running down the field. But Zbikowski has played well thus far, filling in for injured starter Ed Reed. The Ravens, though, haven't exactly played the greatest quarterbacks in the league; Mark Sanchez of the Jets, Carson Palmer of the Bengals and Seneca Wallace of the Browns. It remains to be seen if Batch should be considered in that group, and Wallace's ability to take the top off the defense will be a big part of that consideration.


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