Game Day Matchups

Neil Coolong breaks down the top matchups in tonight's Steelers-Ravens game.

LT Jonathan Scott vs. DE Terrell Suggs

Jonathan Scott held his own in Week 12, but three penalties assessed to him stick out as problematic, especially considering he's facing one of the league's better pass rushers, Suggs. The Steelers have felt the ill effects of Max Starks's neck injury, and are giving up twice as many QB pressures per game without him. A strong performance from Scott will be essential if the Steelers want to let QB Ben Roethlisberger control this game.

Suggs has 7.5 sacks, but three times as many pressures, making him a disruptive force on the Ravens' front line. He harassed Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman all game, as the Ravens held the Buccaneers' offense in check all game. Suggs's quickness isn't a question mark, but it's his strength that makes him an elite level player. Most tackles this season haven't been able to stop him, although Starks did contain him to only one pressure and one sack in their Week 4 meeting.

OLB James Harrison vs. LT Michael Oher and Oniel Cousins

It's either Oher, who shut Harrison out in Week 4 but has a sprained knee, or it's Cousins, a guy the Steelers have shredded in previous outings. The Ravens have injuries along their offensive line just like the Steelers do, and in a game that will likely come down to whichever team can make more big plays, Harrison is the Steelers' best option to do that.

In their first game this season, Oher appeared to be fatigued late in the first half, and was really making an effort to drop back on the snap, to the point he appeared to be moving before the ball. It wasn't called, but Oher's conditioning at that point had to come in question. Harrison's best trait is his constant motor, and he'll try to wear either the injured Oher, or Cousins, down over four quarters.

Steelers Nickel Defense vs. QB Joe Flacco

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has access to the same games Steelers fans watched recently. In that, he watched the passing success teams had when they spread the Steelers out with four WRs, forcing Pittsburgh to utilize another defensive back. Flacco, who has thrown 13 touchdowns to 2 interceptions in his past six games, is likely to duplicate his 37-pass effort he had against the Steelers in Week 4. That was the most he's ever attempted against Pittsburgh.

Flacco is patient enough to take what the defense gives him, and he hasn't thrown an interception in his last eight games in Baltimore. Spreading the Steelers out gives him multiple targets off a three-step drop, which helps negate the Steelers' pass rush. Because of that, and the potential methodical production of WRs Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, the Steelers' defensive backs must press at the line of scrimmage and force Flacco to throw into coverage to avoid sacks.

WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. CB Lardarius Webb

The Steelers face a disadvantage up front, particularly against Suggs and DT Haloti Ngata, and to counter that, they may employ a rhythm passing scheme of their own. Sanders has been quietly passing Antwaan Randle El for the team's third receiver position, and has scored two touchdowns in his last three games. He's quick, and is showing he can catch the ball over the middle, which makes him an attractive quick read to Roethlisberger, whose mobility is in question due to a foot injury.

The Ravens secondary is the weakness of the team, and SS Dawan Landry missed time this week due to a concussion. Webb will likely be the team's nickel back, behind starters Chris Carr and Josh Wilson. If Sanders is able to draw attention away from WR Mike Wallace, and keep Webb on his heels, the Steelers could connect on a few big passing plays, whether that's to Sanders or Wallace, Hines Ward or Heath Miller. But Sanders' production will be critical to the Steelers' ability to force the Ravens into their nickel package, which isn't one of their strengths.

Steel City Insider Top Stories