SERIES MEMORABLE MOMENT
Steelers 23, Ravens 20
Dec. 2, 2012: M&T Bank Stadium
The Baltimore Ravens were on their way to a championship and had a 15-game home winning streak while the Steelers were coming off an eight-fumble, three-interception loss to the Cleveland Browns and didn't have QB Ben Roethlisberger. Charlie Batch turned 38 during the week and was a longshot to beat the Ravens on the road. Rookie seventh-rounder Kelvin Beachum was stepping in at RT to replace Mike Adams and Maurkice Pouncey was moving to LG to replace Willie Colon. The Steelers fell behind 13-3 in the first half and found themselves behind 20-13 in the fourth quarter. On third-and-5 with 9:50 left, QB Joe Flacco was sacked by James Harrison, who tomahawked the ball loose and Ziggy Hood recovered. Four plays later from the Baltimore 7, Batch passed to Heath Miller, who stretched the ball to the pylon for the tying touchdown. On their next possession, the Steelers drove for a game-winning 42-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham on the final play.
WHAT'S ON TAPE?
"You can tell the Ravens are a different team defensively. Without Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee, they just don't have the playmakers they did a year ago. I think without a Terrell Suggs, you don't have the same worry of pressure on the quarterback. Elvis Dumervil last year was very productive, terrific I would say, but I think part of it was he was splitting reps with McPhee and Suggs and Courtney Upshaw. This year he's on the field a lot more. Upshaw is very good against the run. He's not a great pass-rusher." -- Steelers broadcast analyst Tunch Ilkin.
Can Michael Vick play a turnover-free game?
Vick stepped in for an injured Roethlisberger early in the second half of Sunday's game and on the fourth snap was sacked and Vick fumbled. Le'Veon Bell recovered. On the seventh snap, Vick threw a pass into the hands of Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. It was dropped. It reminded us of Vick's turnovers over the years. One TV analyst called him "a turnover machine" and said he's gotten worse in the second half of his career. But the stats only partially agree. In the first half of his career, Vick committed 1.2 turnovers per start and in the second half it increased slightly to 1.3 per start. That doesn't quite sync up with the reputation. Regardless, he'll need to be near perfect in that department tonight. Perhaps that's why Mike Tomlin went out of his way to celebrate Sunday's win with Vick. Perhaps Tomlin's trying to rebuild Vick's confidence. At least it worked Tuesday when Vick looked razor sharp at practice.
THREE QUESTIONS: With WR Antonio Brown
Q: Michael Vick throws the ball hard. Is it difficult to catch?
AB: "Yeah he wings it. My job is to catch the ball no matter how hard or soft, medium. Gotta be able to catch the ball."
Q: Were you two able to develop any chemistry this week?
AB: "Well, we're working on it. It's an ongoing process. Today was our first day. We made a positive step and the team made a positive step."
Q: I was a little surprised you didn't get the second foot down on that play in St. Louis. Were you inbounds?
AB: "I know. I got a little impatient with the ball. I thought the defender was closing on it. I should've dragged them up but I thought we should've challenged the play. We always gotta get the challenge. I always think I'm capable of getting my feet down. I thought I did but they didn't review it."
What to look for from the Steelers tonight against the Ravens:
With Bell and DeAngelo Williams available, and Roethlisberger not, one would think the Steelers would "pound the rock" against the Ravens. But the Ravens' best defensive players are up the middle in NT Brandon Williams and ILB C.J. Mosley. They've been pillars of the Ravens' fourth-best yards-per-carry average (3.4) in the league. But the Ravens can be thrown upon, particularly with their pass rush so crippled by injuries. Look for the Steelers to put the ball in Vick's hands more often than anyone would think and/or hope and he'll look for Brown to beat Jimmy Smith.
The Steelers have actually become a decent run defense. And with the improvement against the run shown by ILB Sean Spence last week, the injury to Ryan Shazier shouldn't bother them against Justin Forsett (3.2 ypc), Lorenzo Taliaferro (3.4) and rookie Buck Allen (3.6). Stopping Flacco won't be so easy, but he'll be without TE Crockett Gillmore and LT Eugene Monroe. The guy to cover will be Steve Smith, but with Tomlin making such a big deal this week about the 36-year-old WR, rookie TE Maxx Williams and 6-5 WR Marlon Brown become worrisome.
The emotional edge one would expect from an 0-3 rival playing for its season is negated by a Steelers team looking to bury the team that ended their 2014 post-season. Expect the Steelers to rally behind Vick, particularly in the second half following Jerome Bettis' Hall of Fame ring ceremony. Steelers, 26-24.
BY THE NUMBERS
17: The NFL high for number of QB pressures allowed this season by James Hurst, the Ravens' replacement left tackle.
12.3: Yards per catch allowed by the Ravens. Any number over 12.0 is a sign that a secondary can't tackle or gives up too many big plays. Or both.
10.6: Yards per catch allowed by the Steelers.
117: Most single-game rushing yards gained by Bettis in his 15 career games (with at least one carry) against the Ravens. He carried 27 times for those 117 in 2004.
2: Number of touchdowns scored by Bettis in his career against the Ravens.
78.6: Vick's career passer rating in three games vs. Ravens. His teams went 2-1.
* Bettis, as mentioned, is being presented his Hall of Fame ring at halftime. On Friday at 9 p.m., Jerome Bettis: A Football Life will premiere on the NFL Network. The Steelers were 9-6 when Bettis ran the ball against the Ravens. He rushed for 969 yards at 3.7 per clip against the Ravens.
* Shazier will miss the ninth of 20 possible games since the Steelers drafted him with the 15th pick in 2014. They chose him over Mosley, taken two picks later by the Ravens, because of better speed and durability. But Mosley will play in his 20th game tonight and has made 93 more tackles than Shazier.
* The Ravens are 0-3 for the first time in franchise history, and if they go 0-4 they face extreme odds. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only one team -- the 1992 San Diego Chargers -- has made the playoffs after an 0-4 start. The Chargers went 11-1 down the stretch, won the wildcard playoff game, but lost in the Divisional Round to Miami.
* Steelers CB Ross Cockrell has played 44 percent of the defensive snaps the last two weeks and has allowed only five catches for 39 yards (7.8 ypc). According to Pro Football Focus, Cockrell's allowed only one yard after the catch with a long catch of 14 yards. PFF has him ranked the 21st most effective cornerback in the league.
"When he came in," said defensive coordinator Keith Butler, "the first thing he did was he started going over and covering Antonio Brown all the time. That’s a good way to make yourself better. I was impressed by it, because he has enough confidence to say I am going to try to cover one of the best wide receivers in the league. He’s done a good job with it. He’s played well for us."
* Last week, rookies Sammie Coates and L.T. Walton made their NFL debuts with the Steelers. This week it looks like TE Jesse James and maybe even OLB Anthony Chickillo will play in their first NFL games. James is the fifth-round pick from Penn State and South Allegheny High. He'll replace Matt Spaeth, who's out with a broken hand. Chickillo was just promoted from the practice squad. He replaced DE Caushaud Lyons on the roster.
“It’s one of those things where watching on TV, you kind of get a glimpse of it, but playing in there – and being in that stadium – it’s a totally different atmosphere; it’s a totally different game. It’s like playing in the playoffs – all the time. It’s a hyped game. A lot of regular-season games don’t attract that type of excitement. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of it all.” -- Ravens WR Steve Smith on playing at Heinz Field.