Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Divisional Pre-Game Analysis

The Baltimore Ravens capitalized on the mistakes of the Kansas City Chiefs and won the wild card game 30-7. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco improved into the post-season, and the Ravens defense lit up the Kansas City Chiefs offense by sacking Matt Cassel three times and forcing five turnovers.

This is a rematch of the week 4 matchup during the regular season in which the Baltimore Ravens won 17-14 and a week 13 rematch in which the Pittsburgh Steelers won 13-10.  Now to the pre-game analysis of this rubber-band match:

Quarterbacks

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had 3,622 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a respectable 93.6 rating during the regular season.  On the other side of the ball, Steelers Ben Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a 97.0 quarterback rating.  Both are going to have difficult times ahead in this game, but Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers get the very slight edge on pure numbers.

Wide Receivers

The Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason had a compiled total of 1,639 yards receiving, 14 touchdowns and averaged 13.1 yards per reception during the regular season.  On the other hand, Mike Wallace of the Steelers had 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception.  He was ranked 5th overall in terms of receiving yards and 3rd overall in terms of touchdowns in the league by season’s end. Opposite of him, Hines  Ward had 755 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  The Steelers get the edge overall, with the power of Mike Wallace. 

Running Backs

The Ravens will have to rely on both Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in this matchup. During the regular season, Ravens Ray Rice had 1,220 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. He was ranked 10th in terms of total overall rushing yardage.  On the other hand, his partner Willis McGahee had 350 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns and averaged 3.8 yards per carry.  On the opposite side of the ball, Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. He was ranked 7th overall in terms of rushing yardage but he was ranked 2nd in terms of rushing touchdowns. His reliever Isaac Redman had 247 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.  Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers get the significant edge.

Tight Ends

This is going to be one of the most interesting battles.  The Baltimore Ravens Todd Heap had 599 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 15.0 yards per reception.  During the post-season so far, he has 108 yards receiving and averaged 10.8 yards per reception.  On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Steelers Heath Miller had 512 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception.  The Ravens get the edge in this one as Heap is leaned on far more.

Defenses

This is going to be one heck of a trench battle.  The Ravens defense was ranked 21st against the pass and 5th against the rush during the regular season.  Their star linebacker Ray Lewis had 139 tackles and was ranked 6th during the regular season.  Lewis did tack on one more tackle during the post-season.  Most notably, however, their cornerback Ed Reed led the league with 8 interceptions by season’s end.  Both are forces to be reckoned with. The Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass and 1st against the rush during the regular season.  Their star Troy Polamalu was 3rd in interceptions overall with 7 by the season’s close. The Ravens defense was ranked 10th overall during the regular season whereas the Steelers defense was ranked 2nd. The Steelers defense gets the edge by a moderate margin, although Ed Reed and Ray Lewis can be gamechangers.

Coaches/Intangibles

Coach Mike Tomlin of the Steelers has been inconsistent with his coaching at times during this season, relying on Ben Roethlisberger too much instead of their running back Rashard Mendenhall to win games.  But he’s been favoring Mendenhall a bit more during the regular season.  Coach John Harbaugh has been relying more on the pass with Joe Flacco recently, although a bit more balanced with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee being used to tire defenses out.  Unfortunately, John Harbaugh has never won against Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers get the edge in this one, although the win last week should boost the Ravens morale.

The Edge

By numbers alone, the Steelers should get the significant edge with a score of 27-17, but numbers haven’t proven themselves against this matchup.  Realistically, I imagine it to be close again with the Steelers get a slight edge over the Ravens 20-17.

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