It's been a while since I last posted here. With such a big game coming up, I felt it was necessary to release some anxiety.
Ravens-Steelers. I kinda stop and pause whenever i think about this. It is, by far, the greatest game to watch in sports today. This game seems like it is just as important as winning the Super Bowl, and truth be told, it is. In 2008, we went 0-3 against these same Steelers. Seeing Big Ben drive 90+ on us at home and delivering a TD pass to Santonio Holmes was devastating ( I still don't see that as a touchdown, but of course, i'm biased). Troy's Pick-Six goes down as the biggest heartbreak I have ever had to witness as a Ravens fan. Our hate for the Steelers is natural, but i'm not going to be stupid and say I don't respect them.
When it comes to the game, both teams are equivalent to each other. The fact that it is a home game for the Steelers does not give them an edge. Sure it's great to have a crowd cheering you on, but I don't think there is a team in football that thrives in hostile environments better than the Baltimore Ravens. A Blowout win in KC will tell you that. And I know, the game's being discussed all over ESPN and NFL Network, but there are a few key matchups that I think will decide the game that aren't so obvious.
1.) Billy Cundiff vs. Shaun Suisham: In a game where points will be precious, The players of the game may likely be the place kickers of the winning team. For Baltimore, Billy Cundiff has been the unsung hero. I'm sure Lots of Ravens fan, myself being one of them, were hoping that Shayne Graham won the kicking job way back in August. John Harbaugh, being the Special Teams genius he is, made possibly, the most impactful decision this year by giving the job to Billy Cundiff. He has been nothing short of spectacular this year. Missing on a mere three field goals all season long is nothing short of spectacular. Even more impressive however, was tying the the NFL record of 40 touch backs in a single season. If he is able to do this on a consistent basis this Saturday, and is able to help us edge out the Steelers in the field position battle, we have a great shot at winning. Going 80 yards on the Ravens defense is USUALLY not an easy task.
As for Shaun Suisham, he seems to have rejuvenated his career in Pittsburgh. Going for 14-15 on the season is an amazing stat, and it shows that he has most likely, put his days of shanking kicks in Washington behind him. Heinz field is not an easy place to kick but he has been doing it for the better part of this season, and has been doing it effectively.
2.) T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. The Steelers Zone Coverage: I think a lot of us can agree that Houshmandzadeh hasn't exactly been a star receiver here in Baltimore this year. His ability to get separation from cornerbacks has been abysmal. The Steelers however don't play a lot of man-man and that could quite possibly make Saturday's game, Houshmandzadeh's best. If the Ravens want to beat their rivals, they need to get the best from everyone around them, including Houshmandzadeh. With the Steelers pass rush getting at Flacco, we'll need Houshmandzadeh to step up and show that he once was a probowl receiver and find open spots in the zone. If he can become a viable option for Flacco, especially on third down, it will give the Ravens offense a huge boost.
3.) Cam Cameron: Okay, maybe this is pretty obvious, but Cam is gonna have to show that he can step out of his comfort zone and call a great game. I want to see Leron McClain get the ball more! He is a physical, uphill runner and is rarely brought down by the first guy he takes on. Why Not try to give him the ball early and often and see if he can establish the rhythym. How about calling a few screens to Rice and Heap towards both sides of the line to throw off that Pittsburgh pass rush. Get Stallworth out on the field! Let him run down the field and take a few shots. I'm not saying risk the game away, but let's not play to not lose, but actually "play to win the game".
With all this said, I'm certain the Ravens have what it takes to knock off the Steelers in the BEST game of the season. It's not going to be easy, but if you want to be called Super Bowl Champs, you gotta go through the best there is.