The Ravens are coming in decidedly banged up as the Steelers are getting about as healthy as they're going to be the rest of the way. Bryant McFadden is getting his start since returning from injury and Brett Keisel is still a possibility to make it back onto the field at M&T Bank. Both the Ravens offensive tackles are dinged up, which can't be a good thing for Joe Flacco's chances of avoiding Woodley and Harrison. Derrick Mason and "Greatest Raven Ever" Matt Stover practiced for the first time today. Mason, in many ways, is the key to the Ravens offense and is a reputed Steeler killer. If he's slowed significantly, that's a big plus for the Steelers. Elsewhere, Ray Rice is likely out for Sunday, which be another huge boon to the defense. Willis McGahee hasn't produced worth a damn this year, so the onus has fallen on the effective McClain/Rice tandem to perform in his place and they have admirably. With a pounding back like Rice out, there's less a chance Baltimore can have fresh backs against a worn down D in the second half.
Odd as it sounds, the biggest key to stifling the Ravens offense is stop the deep pass and gadget plays. Flacco throws a good deep ball and, with a stifled offense, the Ravens are going to try to pick up yardage in big chunks when they can. Because the game will be so tight the Ravens will probably try a few deep balls to see, if nothing else, they can come down with one in a fluke or draw a pass interference penalty. Mark Clayton made a few big catches against Cincy, but that's Cincy. Even so, the Ravens will take their shots and the defense has to be ready.
But then, as it's been all year, the crux for the Steelers is on the offense, which has seen nothing but struggles in recent years in Baltimore, to say nothing or just the struggles in recent weeks. As futile as it sounds with Arians at the helm, I'd like to think the team won't abandon the run if Baltimore shows early success, as they should, in slowing it. Whether FWP's advice is heeded or not (I'm betting on no) for using the I-formation, the team has to stick with the run no matter what. Lining up five wide against the Ravens is getting to get Ben killed, whether they sack him or not. The Ravens are all too happy to take late hits at our QBs, as they've demonstrated on countless occasions in recent years.
There has to be more use of the no-huddle. It was what sparked the Steelers offense in the first meeting with Baltimore and it's what got them their only touchdown last week. I'm not sure how else this will get through to Arians. Beginning in training camp, there was an emphasis on Ben taking the reins of the offense and running the no-huddle. They've had 14 weeks worth of time to practice it and it's shown success in the few times they've utilized it.