Like in the season opener against the Jets three weeks ago, the Ravens have a chance to make a statement on the road this afternoon when they take on the 3-0 Steelers.
Pittsburgh is without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the Ravens will head into a stadium where they have trouble getting wins, and they will face the league's stingiest defense in terms of points allowed (the Steelers are giving up just 11 points per game).
If the Ravens can overcome those hurdles and earn a win this afternoon, they'll set themselves up with a share of first place in the AFC North through a difficult first quarter of the schedule, with a home matchup against the Steelers still to come later in the year.
Here are three keys for the Ravens this afternoon:
Charlie Batch isn't like most third-string quarterbacks in that he's experienced, but that doesn't mean the Ravens won't be able to rattle the 13-year veteran. Batch threw two interceptions last week against the Buccaneers, and two of his three touchdown passes were nearly intercepted as well. If the Ravens can get consistent pressure on Batch and make him uncomfortable in the pocket, they have a good chance to force the veteran QB into a couple turnovers, which could swing the game.
Tighten up the run D
The Ravens allowed a whopping 173 yards rushing last week against the Browns, including 144 to little-known Peyton Hillis. You know the Steelers watched the tape of Hillis' performance last week very carefully, and they'll try and attack this Ravens' run defense this afternoon. The Ravens have only allowed back-to-back 100-yard rushers once in team history, and the members of the Baltimore front-seven will come into this game with a chip on their shoulders because of last week's effort. Rashard Mendenhall has the ability to break a few big runs, and he's a tough runner, so the Ravens won't have it easy today, but they have to do a better job shutting down the run game and forcing Batch to make some plays through the air.
It's tough enough to win road games against good teams when you play your best football. It's even tougher when you turn the ball over or have a number of penalties. The Ravens, who are currently tied for the worst turnover ratio in the NFL, must take care of the football today and make the Steelers work a long field. They also have to keep their cool and not commit any silly penalties, which almost came back to bite them last week when they were flagged seven times in the second half. The Ravens have to play a smart game today to come out of Heinz Field with a win.