The Steelers are listed as five point home favorites against the Baltimore Ravens. Home teams have won 22 of the last 31 meetings in the AFC North’s marquee rivalry. Expect a close game, the average margin of victory in the last three installments of this grudge match is 4.33 points.
Since 2014, the Ravens have held Ben Roethlisberger to an average quarterback rating under 83, while sacking him fifteen times in these five games. Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees must incorporate some deceptive wrinkles into his game plan to force the Steelers into mistakes and slow down their versatile offense.
On the other side of the ball, Baltimore’s offense must find a way to extend drives and maintain their recent red zone efficiency. Joe Flacco has to avoid turnovers and be better than average to overcome the team’s road woes. With the Steelers fielding the roster with more playmakers, the onus is on the Ravens coaching staff to manufacture the upset.
WR Mike Wallace vs CB Artie Burns
Wallace will be motivated to prove his worth against his former team. Wallace showed some frustration over his involvement in the offense on the sideline last week against the Eagles, he will likely be featured on Christmas. Wallace caught four balls for 124-yards in the Week 9 contest against the Steelers, including a 95-yard catch and run score in the first quarter.
Burns has refined his technique over the course of his rookie season, Wallace recently compared him to former Steeler cover man Ike Taylor. Burns has 50 total tackles, a dozen passes deflected and three interceptions on the season.
RB Le’Veon Bell vs ILB C.J. Mosley
Since Week 11, Bell has averaged 143 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards per game. He may be among the best dual threat running backs in the NFL, but the Ravens held him to 70 all purpose yards in Week 9.
Fresh off his 13-tackle, one forced fumble performance against the Eagles last week, Mosley is a Pro Bowl caliber backer. The suddenly vulnerable Ravens run defense will rely on Mosley to stymie Bell on the ground, and also limit his production catching balls out of the backfield.
LT Ronnie Stanley vs OLB James Harrison
Stanley has found his groove in December of his rookie campaign with three consecutive strong games. He did not allow a single pressure last week in 34 pass attempts. However, Stanley struggled with Harrison’s raw strength in the first meeting, which was Stanley’s first game back from a serious foot injury. Stanley was flagged four times, and allowed several quarterback hits in Week 9.
Harrison has terrorized the Ravens throughout his career, and is not slowing down much at 37 years old. He sacked Joe Flacco twice and forced a fumble in Week 9. Deebo has posted 19 career sacks against Baltimore over 28 games. The Ravens will need to give Flacco time to make plays downfield against Pittsburgh’s 14th ranked pass defense.
WR Antonio Brown vs CB Tavon Young
Brown is one of the top wideouts in the NFL, and has been on a hot streak with four touchdowns in his last four games. Against Baltimore in November, Brown notched seven catches on eleven targets for 85-yards and a score.
The Ravens will counter with the best rookie corner this season, since Jimmy Smith is doubtful to suit up and would have issues covering Brown on a bad ankle. Young’s quick twitch athleticism and sure tackling will be crucial in restraining the elusive Brown after the catch.