TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 13: Pittsburgh Steelers At Baltimore Ravens

Steelers
Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers
AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Quarterback
The Steelers want Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup but they know they can’t rush him despite all the problems they have had at the quarterback position. Even if his rib heals, Roethlisberger has not thrown a pass since his injury and it seems unlikely that he will play. That means Charlie Batch, who looks old and over matched, will get the call again.
Winner Joe Flacco knows what it takes to be successful. He was able to bide his time against the Chargers and lead them to a come-from-behind overtime victory. He completed 30-of-51 passes for 355 yards in that win. Flacco has a powerful deep arm, sees the field well and moves well in the pocket.
Offense
The Steelers’ running backs could not hold on to the football in the Week 12 loss to the Browns. Four running backs fumbled the ball four times and that’s not going to win many games. Jonathan Dwyer is probably the best of the four running backs. He has rushed for 429 yard and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Explosive Mike Wallace is a top big-play receiver, but his quarterback can’t get him the ball.
Winner Ray Rice is a game-breaking player. He proved that with his remarkable 30-yard catch and run on a fourth-and-29 play in the Week 12 win over the Chargers.Rice makes every player around him better because opposing defenses must focus on stopping him. Torrey Smith has become Flacco’s top wide receiver target. Anquan Boldin is solid and so is tight end Dennis Pitta.
Defense
Winner The Steelers have the top-ranked statistical defense in the league, but they do not get takeaways like the Chicago Bears or San Francisco 49ers. Linebacker Larry Foote and free safety Ryan Clark are the Steelers’ two most consistent defensive players. They have combined for 154 tackles this year.
The Ravens have played much better defense in recent weeks, but this is not the nasty and hard-hitting team that fans have been used to for so many years. They are particularly vulnerable against the run, and that’s basically all the Steelers can do on the offensive side of the ball. Strong safety Bernard Pollard has become the team’s best tackler as he leads the team with 82 stops. Free safety Ed Reed is still a ball hawk.
Special Teams
The Steelers have to be thrilled with the performance of placekicker Shaun Suisham. He has made 21-of-22 FG attempts this year, including 6-of-6 from 40-49 yards. Punter Drew Butler has been ordinary, averaging 43.9 yards per kick.
Winner The Ravens have had one of the best special teams units in the league. They excel in kickoff and punt coverage. They also have perhaps the league’s best special teams player in Jacoby Jones, who has three returns for touchdowns (two kickoff, one punt) this season. Placekicker Justin Tucker has made 22-of-24 FG attempts this season.

The Winner Is

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Winner Ravens
3 out of 4

The Ravens have an opportunity to bury the Steelers at home in this game. If Roethlisberger cannot play, the Steelers would appear to be in big trouble because their backup quarterbacks have not been able to provide any relief.However, if Roethlisberger is healthy, this could be a game decided in the final minute.

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