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Facing the Enemy Week 4: Ravens at Steelers

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For this week’s “Facing the Enemy” interview, I asked 2 guys from 2 different Steelers blogs a few questions that were answered quite similarly. Check out our enemy bloggers, Eric Schmidt from the Steelers Chronicle and Dave Bryan from the Steelers Depot. They are both surprised of their teams’ 3-0 record, they both like LB Lawrence Timmons, and they both call this a ‘slugfest.’

1.) Are you surprised that the Steelers are 3-0? What attributes to their success?
DAVE: Considering the early injuries, the suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and starting a rookie at center, Steeler Nation as a whole was hopeful to go 2-2 over the first four games of the season. To start off 3-0 was not unthinkable, but the odds were surely against us considering who was on the schedule and who was under center. The success is mostly [attributed] to the defense, of course. Once again, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has the defense clicking on all cylinders. The return of a healthy Troy Polamalu at strong safety and Aaron Smith at left defensive end really makes a difference. The return of Bryant McFadden at left cornerback is understated as well. The Steelers also have used a nice rotation of bodies on the defensive line to keep people fresh throughout the game without losing the high standard of play.

ERIC: Yes, I am a bit surprised with the Steelers success early on, given the quarterback situation. One only has to look at the defensive football the Steelers are playing right now to know why they are 3-0.

2.) The Steelers are dead last in passing offense, while the Ravens are ranked first in passing defense. How can the Steelers challenge the Ravens secondary?
DAVE: To open up the passing game, the Steelers must run effectively first and foremost to force the Ravens to move a safety up for support. A good running game mixed with strong play action should free things up over the top and down the middle of the field. If the offensive line can hold their own without needing tight end Heath Miller to help, it should enable Miller to string out the linebackers in the passing game and even better, force the Ravens to dedicate a safety or extra defensive back to cover Miller. It starts with the cliché of “run [well] in order to pass.”

ERIC: The Steelers are dead last in passing offense, but those numbers are a bit misleading. Factored into those numbers is the game in week 2 when the Steelers played the Tennessee Titans and finished with 25 yards passing. Charlie Batch was very effective last week and I’m not too worried about the passing game.

3.) Which is more of a threat, the Ravens WR corps or the 3-headed rushing attack?
DAVE: Ray Rice is the biggest threat period as he not only can run between the tackles, but can catch balls out of the backfield. The Steelers must stop him first and force the Ravens into predictable passing down-situations. The Steelers secondary is great at keeping receivers in front of them and limiting the yards after catch. In the Falcons game, Roddy White had a career type day on paper, but he never scored and never got free on a game-changing play. The Ravens can catch 30 balls as long as they are kept out of endzone and limited to 3 points on long drives. Rice must be the first priority.

ERIC: Well, given the uncertainty surrounding Ray Rice, I would have to say the Ravens passing game.

4.) Who is the MVP of the Steelers right now, and why?
DAVE: No one likes to hear that it has been a complete team effort, but if nailed down, I would have to say inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. He leads the AFC in tackles and has been all over the field. He has become the great first-round draft pick we hoped he would become. He is in top physical shape and fully understands the defense.

ERIC: On offense, I’d have to say RB Rashard Mendenhall, who has rushed for 332 yards and has a 5.2 yard-per-carry average. On defense, I’d have to say LB Lawrence Timmons. He currently leads the defense with 33 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass [defended].

5.) What are your game predictions?
DAVE:
This should be a defensive slugfest, and the team that runs the ball the best and commits the fewest turnovers should win the game. I like the Steelers to win, but you will have to check my blog on Saturday for the final score prediction. I would wish the Ravens and their fans good luck, but I would not mean it. I do wish you all good health so you can see the Steelers continue to collect Lombardi Trophies year end and year out. Be well!

ERIC: This game will be a slugfest like most of the Ravens/Steelers games. If Ravens RB Ray Rice is unable to play, that does change things for the Ravens. The Steelers are 3rd in the league against the run. Ravens QB Joe Flacco had 3 touchdowns last week against a very poor Cleveland Browns secondary, but has struggled otherwise so far this season. Expect Flacco to see plenty of blitzes. Final score Steelers 16, Ravens 13.