As the Steelers prepare to play the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football (MNF), it is obvious that both teams are preparing for a defensive struggle. These are two of the most defensive minded teams in the NFL. Both subscribe to the philosophy of “run the ball, and stop the run”.
Beyond the overall Steelers Offense vs. Baltimore Defense, and Baltimore Offense vs. Steelers Defense match-up, here are a few of the specific match-ups that will determine the outcome of the game:
Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ravens Defense
What more need be said about this one? Nobody can run against the Ravens’ defense. A rookie running back making his first NFL start is not going to change that. Advantage: Ravens.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens Secondary
Everyone knows that Baltimore is going to blitz. They watched last week’s game just like the rest of us did. They know that the blitz is an effective tool against the Steelers offense, and Ben Roethlisberger in particular. Big Ben is going to have to get rid of the ball quickly. Last week that was difficult for him to do, because even though the Eagles were sending up to 8 men to rush the passer, their secondary was still able to keep the Steelers receivers from getting open (how that happened is anybody’s guess).
The Ravens’ secondary is even better than the Eagles’. Ed Reed, Chris McAllister, and Samari Rolle make up one of the most feared defensive backfields in the NFL. In order for the Steelers to win, Roethlisberger must win this battle. Advantage: Ravens.
Dick LeBeau vs. Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco is a rookie quarterback starting in his first away game. He only has two NFL regular season games under his belt. Those games were against the unimpressive Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns defenses. Flacco has never seen anything like what LeBeau is about to throw at him.
LeBeau has socks that have been in more NFL games than Flacco has. Clearly, he has forgotten more about football then Flacco will ever know. It is his job to use his vastly superior knowledge and experience to completely baffle Flacco. If I were betting on this match-up, I’d put my money on LeBeau. Advantage: Steelers.
Haloti Ngata vs. Chris Kemoeatu
Besides being a battle of two of the more difficult names to pronounce in the NFL, this is a battle of two enormous human beings. “Kemo” is 6’3″, 344 lbs. Ngata is 6’4″, 340 lbs. That’s a lot of beef banging into one another.
Kemoeatu is in his first year as a starter, replacing the departed Alan Faneca. He got off to a good start against the Texans and Browns, but was totally overmatched against the blitzing Eagles. Ngata is surprisingly quick for his size, and he would be a challenge for Kemoeatu by himself. But Kemoeatu will have to battle Ngata while also preventing Baltimore’s linebackers from slipping between the gaps. Advantage: Draw.
Troy Polamalu vs. Todd Heap
Todd Heap has not been an integral part of Baltimore’s offense as of late. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he is a very capable weapon. Particularly in the red zone. If the Steelers are effective at stopping th Ravens’ rushing attack, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron will probably instruct Flacco to go to Todd Heap as his second option. While the Steelers often drop linebackers into coverage, safety Troy Polamalu will probably get most of responsibility for stopping Heap. Advantage: Steelers.
James Harrison vs. Adam Terry
Last year, James Harrison had such a dominant performance against the Ravens on MNF, that some argue that that single game was responsible for making Harrison a Pro Bowler. Terry’s job will be to prevent Harrison from having a repeat performance. Uhhh yeah, good luck with that. Advantage: Steelers.