Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the key matchups in tonight's Ravens-Steelers game.

OLB James Harrison vs. LT Bryant McKinnie

That surge of excitement that went through Pittsburgh Friday was the listing of Harrison as Probable for the first time since Week 4. Harrison will play, and it comes at the perfect time. With October's AFC Defensive Player of the Month, LaMarr Woodley, out with a hamstring injury, Harrison looks to jump-start a defense that's lacked a pass rush from anyone other than Woodley.

This comes at the same time McKinnie appears to be breaking down. Baltimore had hoped he could play himself into shape, but that hasn't happened, and his performances against Arizona last week and Jacksonville the week before have been suspect. Baltimore's offensive line has been the reason they played their worst football in six of the last eight quarters of their games, and Harrison will come after him aggressively on passing downs.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Anquan Boldin

Boldin was the catalyst behind Baltimore's comeback in Week 8. His five catches in the second half highlighted a furious Ravens comeback, but perhaps more importantly, he drew three penalties on the Cardinals secondary, helping to extend drives when his team needed them. Boldin hasn't gotten into the end zone much this season (just twice), but he makes catches all over the field in any down-and-distance situation.

Taylor did well on Patriots WR Wes Welker last week, but Boldin is stronger, and knows how to draw contact. With Taylor's multiple-flag day from Week 7 against Arizona still fresh on the minds of his opponents, look for Boldin to try to body Taylor up and get the flags flying in his direction.

LT Max Starks vs. RE/ROLB Terrell Suggs

Multiple sacks and a forced fumble or two have become typical for Suggs against Pittsburgh. He completely dominated the Steelers offensive line in Baltimore's 35-7 Week 1 victory. He's played even better the last two weeks, as the Ravens have needed to lean on him through poor offensive performances.

This is the game Starks was brought back to play. Pittsburgh's offensive line has shown considerable improvement in stretches since Starks came back in Week 5. He'll likely get help from either TE Heath Miller or TE David Johnson, but the Steelers' ability to get the ball down the field will depend on Starks keeping Suggs in front of him. A tough task, but a crucial one.

SS Troy Polamalu and CB Will Gay vs. TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta

Four of Flacco's seven drives in the second half started with a pass either to Dickson or Pitta. Flacco was clearly more comfortable throwing short early in the possession, and when the Ravens established some rhythm, they were able to move the ball successfully. It wouldn't be surprising to see Dickson staying on the line at the snap to sell the run, but when he releases, the Steelers are going to have to get a body on him and force Flacco to look down the field.

Gay played well in a few instances against New England's TE combination of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. He covered both inside and out, and rookie CB Cortez Allen will also play a key role in this capacity as he did last week. Considering the lack of depth of Pittsburgh's linebackers, the Ravens will want to force the Steelers base package on the field, meaning Gay will be on the outside. Polamalu is dangerous at the line, but he's also the Steelers best defender on short routes, and forcing him to commit to one tight end could be an advantage for Baltimore.


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