As we approach the 2009 NFL Season with every second passed we grow with excitement and anticipation. As Baltimore Raven fans we think about one thing; the Pittsburgh Steelers. We also tell ourselves that this year will be the year we beat the Colts, but more importantly; our most hated rival, those Steelers. This past season was a year in which the true talent of each team was shown and we matched up so evenly in almost every aspect of the game, it really is a thing of beauty. Now lets get to it and in honor of Terrell Suggs, "YBYSA!"
As a fan I admit that I sometimes have a very biased opinion, so with that said my opinions will not be the topic of this article. We can talk all about that below, but this is an accurate comparison from top to bottom as far as (projected) starters go. I admit that I am very far from being considered a Steeler fan (actually Im light years away) but I love this game of football and I know my facts. So I based my Steelers projected lineup off previous seasons, draft, etc.
Lets start at Quarterback:
- Ben Roethlisberger: 16 Games- 80.1 QB Rating, 281 of 469 (59.9%) for 3,301 yds, 17 TD/15 INT.
- Joe Flacco: 16 Games- 80.3 QB Rating, 257 of 428 (60%) for 2,971 yds, 14 TD/12 INT
Statistically speaking; both QB's match up very well, almost identical numbers. Roethlisberger rushed 34 times for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. Flacco amassed 180 yards off of 52 attempts and also scored 2 touchdowns. This is a very neck-and-neck battle with the only difference being that Roethlesberger is comfortably in place and in full command of his offense. Whereas Flacco is just coming into the role, his production was limited in the past season simply to help him make a smooth transition.
Number 1 and 2 Receivers:
- Hines Ward: 81 receptions for 1,043 yards. 7 TD's and a 49 yard longest reception.
- Santonio Holmes: 55 receptions for 821 yards. 5 TD's and a 48 yard longest reception.
- Derrick Mason: 80 receptions for 1,037 yards. 5 TD"s and a 54 yard longest reception.
- Mark Clayton: 41 receptions for 695 yards. 3 TD's and a 70 yard longest reception.
We have another close battle with the main difference being actual TD's. Clayton and Holmes however do have other statistics worth noticing. Clayton rushed 6 times for 81 yards and a 42 yard TD, along with a 32 yard TD pass to Derrick Mason. Holmes returned 34 punts last season for an average of 6.6 ypr.
Running Backs and Full Back:
- Willie Parker: 11 Games- 10 for 791 yards, 5 TD's and 3 receptions for 13 yards.
- Rashard Mendenhall: 4 Games- 19 for 58 yards with 2 receptions for 17 yards.
- Carey Davis: 14 Games- 12 for 35 yards, with 5 receptions for 21 yards.
- Willis McGahee: 13 Games- 170 for 671 yards, 7 TD's and 24 receptions for 173 yards.
- Ray Rice: 13 Games- 107 for 454 yards, with 33 receptions for 273 yards.
- LeRon McClain: 16 Games- 232 for 902 yards, 10 TD's, with 19 rec. for 123 yds and 1 TD.
The Steelers struggled at rushing the ball last season whereas the Ravens had great success in their running game. (It should be noted that Mewelde Moore was a gem in the Pittsburgh rushing attack as he racked up 588 yards with 140 carries for 5 TD's along with 320 yards receiving off 40 receptions with 1 TD.)
- Heath Miller: 48 rec. for 514 yards with 3 TD's and a 22 yard longest reception.
- Matt Spaeth: 17 rec. for 136 yards and a 13 yard longest reception.
- Todd Heap: 35 rec. for 403 yards with 3 TD's and a 30 yard longest reception.
- LJ Smith: 37 rec for 298 yards with 3 TD's and a 25 yard longest reception.
This Tight End battle is actually a very interesting one. Heath Miller has been extremely reliable for the Steelers. Todd Heap was used for pass protection on a regular basis last season, Cam Cameron is expected to incorporate more Tight End play this season with the addition of LJ Smith from Philadelphia.
Offensive line play will be key in this upcoming season, both teams suffered a loss of veteran leadership as the Steelers parted ways with Marvel Smith and the Ravens took a loss whenWillie Anderson retired. Pittsburghs offensive line gave up 49 sacks last season and the Baltimore line gave up 33. Both teams have made attempts to solidify their lines in the offseason, we shall see who wins this battle when the season kicks off. Baltimore hopes the additions of stud right tackle Michael Oher and veteran center Matt Birk will help bolster an already impressive running game.
- Aaron Smith: 60 TT, 5.5 sacks and 4 passes deflected.
- Casey Hampton: 22 TT, 1 sack and 1 pass defelcted.
- Brett Keisel: 41 TT, 1 sack and 2 passes defelcted.
- Travis Kirschke: 46 TT and 2 sacks.
- Trevor Pryce: 27 TT, 4.5 sacks and 2 passes deflected.
- Kelly Gregg: 83 TT, 3 sacks and 3 passes defelected. (*2007 stats)
- Haloti Ngata: 55 TT, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 5 passes deflected.
- Justin Bannan: 45 TT, 1 sack, 1 interception and 3 passes deflected.
Both teams have a stacked house of talented Defensive Linemen, Kelly Gregg is coming back from a season-long injury and is expected to be the explosive player he was for many years. Both teams drafted young prospects in this years draft with the Steelers taking Evander "Ziggy" Hood with the 32nd pick and Baltimore landing Paul Kruger with the 57th pick. Stopping the run has been something both teams pride themselves in for many years now and things dont look to change anytime soon.
- LaMarr Woodley: 60 TT, 11.5 sacks, 1 int., 2 FF and 2 passes deflected.
- James Farrior: 133 TT, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF and 5 passes deflected.
- James Harrison: 101 TT, 16 sacks, 1 int, 7 FF and 3 passes deflected.
- Lawrence Timmons: 65 TT, 5 sacks, 1 int, 1 FF and 3 passes deflected.
- Jarret Johnson: 56 TT, 4 sacks, 2 FF and 3 passes deflected.
- Ray Lewis: 117 TT, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 FF and 9 passes deflected.
- Terrell Suggs: 69 TT, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 FF and 9 passes deflected.
- Tavares Gooden: 87 TT, 12.5 sacks, and 3 FF. (*Senior Season, limited action last year)
The departure of Bart Scott has been a headline magnet since the beginning of the 2009 free agency, the Baltimore Ravens hope 2nd year man Tavares Gooden can fill the void with his signature sideline-to-sideline speed and with a nickname of "Baby Ray," many fans cant ait to see what this young man has in store. The Steelers retrun a dominating 4 and are anxious to see how the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison will attempt to match his impressive showing from '08. The loss of former starting LB Larry Foote is expected to go rather smooth for the defending champs, whether that is true or not will be proven come kickoff.
- LCB Ike Taylor: 65 TT, 1 int and 15 passes deflected.
- RCB Deshea Townsend: 20 TT, 2 int and 8 passes deflected.
- SS Troy Polamalu: 73 TT, 7 interceptions and 17 passes deflected.
- FS Ryan Clark: 88 TT, 1 int and 6 passes deflected.
- LCB Fabian Washington: 31 TT, 1 int and 15 passes deflected.
- RCB Domonique Foxworth: 38 TT, 1 int and 11 passes deflected.
- SS Dawan Landry: 83 TT, 1 sack and 6 passes deflected. (*2007 stats)
- FS Ed Reed: 41 TT, 1 sack, 9 interceptions, 1 FF and 16 passes deflected.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did a great job last season at limiting the aerial attack of other teams and look to continue that trend but may have to plug in some different names with the key loss of starting corner Bryant McFadden to the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens to have bolstered their cornerback position with the addition of Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr via free agency. Along with the move of Samari Rolle from full time corner to Nickle Back. Both teams are very talented and blessed at the safety position where the Steelers have Troy Polamalu and the ravens have all world Free Safety Ed Reed. The key to this battle is the return of Dawan Landry, coming back from a season ending spinal injury is no easy task, but Landry seems to be back to pro form. When healthy Landry has the potential to be an all pro safety and only time will tell if his body allows him to succeed once again.
- K Jeff Reed: 27-31, 87.1% with a long of 53 yards and 117 total points.
- P Daniel Sepulveda: 42.4 yd avg, a long of 59 yards, pinning 28 inside the 20 and 7 inside the 10.
- Current battle between Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka, both currently unproven.
- P Sam Koch: 45 yd avg, a long of 74 yards, pinning 34 inside the 20 and 18 inside the 10.
Special teams play can make or break a football team, which is why so many fans and experts are closely watching the competition between Gano and Hauschka at Ravens training camp. Ozzie Newsom has said that Matt Stover would still be an option if neither can prove to be the right man for the job. Santonio Holmes returned punts for Pittsburgh last season while Gary Russel and Mewelde Moore shared the load on kickoff returns. The Ravens on the other hand have another open competition for their return men. Chris Carr was brought in from Tennessee where he averaged 28.1 yards per kick return and 10.1 per punt return. He is expected to compete against former first round draft pick Yamon Figurs along with Lardarius Webb, Tom Zbikowski and multiple other players as the lead return man.
- 290 Total First Downs; (rushing/passing/by penalty) 93, 179, 18.
- 4,991 Total offensive yards, 4.9 avg yards per play.
- 1,690 Rushing Yards, 3.7 yards per rush.
- 3,301 Passing yards, 7.1 yards per pass.
- 38 Total TD's, 51 Sacks, avg. TOP: 31:41 and a Turnover Ratio of +4.
- 300 Total First Downs; (rushing/passing/by penalty) 132, 147, 21.
- 5,184 Total offensive yards, 4.7 avg yards per play.
- 2,376 Rushing Yards, 4 yards per rush.
- 2,808 passing yards, 7.1 yards per pass.
- 42 Total TD's, 34 Sacks, avg. TOP: 33:22 and a Turnover Ratio of +13.
I decided not to include coaching staffs simply based on the fact that these coaches have been placed in their positions because they know what they are doing. From top to bottom we are 2 of the most talented and respectable staffs in the NFL. With that being said; let's get it started. Who has the edge and why?