By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. They’re thankful to still be in the playoff picture most of all. With a 5-6 record, Baltimore still has a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. But to keep pace, they’ll have to take down their hated rivals in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers were once a team dwelling at the bottom of the division. But after pulling off three straight victories, the black and gold find themselves right there with Baltimore in the playoff hunt. That makes a rivalry game on Thanksgiving night all the more intriguing.
Steelers on Offense
Similar to Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers rushing attack has faltered a great deal in 2013. But what they lack in rushing, they make up for with a dangerous passing attack.
That passing game centers on star QB Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has been a pain in the Ravens side for plenty of years as these two teams have seen plenty of epic battles. With OC Todd Haley now calling the plays for Pittsburgh, Ben hasn’t had the kind of success he’s accustomed to when it comes to throwing the football. But when a play breaks down, there isn’t a better QB to have than Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line doesn’t do a great job of protecting their quarterback. Once again, it’ll be imperative that Baltimore grabs Roethlisberger with both arms in order to keep him from breaking free. If he does get loose, it will almost certainly cost the defense a big play.
Steelers on Defense
It’s not the Steel Curtain, but this team still has potential to make things uncomfortable for any quarterback. The Steelers held the much improved Browns to only 11 points on the road. They’ll look to continue their impressive play against a Ravens team that is still capable of making big plays.
But if Baltimore wants to take down their hated rivals on Thanksgiving, they’ll need to keep tabs on some old friends on the other end of the field. Troy Polamalu isn’t the same threat he used to be, but he still wreaks havoc for opposing offenses. Almost every highlight shown involving this rivalry has Polamalu somewhere making a play. Joe Flacco will need to find where he is on the field on every down and plan accordingly.
The Ravens will need to get some kind of run game going against the Steelers to take some pressure off Flacco. The Steelers are good at stopping the run but that shouldn’t stop Baltimore from pounding the football with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. With the weather expected to be frigid, throwing the ball can be quite difficult. It’ll be imperative for the Ravens to at least keep the Steelers honest.
Mike Tomlin is in his sixth year as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. He won his first and only Super Bowl leading the team in 2009 against the Arizona Cardinals (he won as a Steelers assistant coach in 2002). The Steelers currently lead the All-Time record against the Ravens 23-15.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.