Joe Flacco is 0-3 in his career at Heinz Field, and while you can point to a number of factors which have led to that record, perhaps the most important is that the Ravens have had trouble keeping their quarterback upright.
Flacco has been sacked a total of 12 times in his three trips to Pittsburgh, and the constant pressure has led to a host of turnovers.
Six times in those three games Flacco has coughed the ball up (four interceptions and two lost fumbles), and as we know, you’re not going to win many ballgames when you turn the ball over that frequently.
The Steelers present an interesting challenge, because instead of having just one top-notch pass rusher, they feature two guys who can really bring it off the edge in outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
“At times we’ve done well against one guy, but then the other guy has hurt us,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You’ve got both guys on both sides. It’s pretty hard to provide help on both sides of your pass protection and get anybody out. That’s the biggest thing. They really bring it and you’re not sure where they’re coming from, and they bring it with a lot of power.”
Harrison and Woodley have tortured offensive tackles the last two years, posting a ridiculous 51 sacks between them in that time. They’re both incredibly strong and have great speed, allowing them to either bowl over an offensive lineman or sprint right past him.
“It’s tough to have two guys that have the ability that they have to dominate games,” left tackle Michael Oher said. “You got to come to play and bring your A game every snap.”
One thing which might benefit the Ravens a bit is that the Steelers rarely flip their outside backers. They leave Harrison on the defense’s right side and Woodley on the left much of the time, so the Ravens know that Oher will square off against Harrison, while right tackle Marshal Yanda will be matched up against Woodley.
Each linebacker has had games to remember against the Ravens; Harrison had 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble back in Flacco’s first trip to Heinz Field in 2008, while Woodley had two sacks on consecutive plays and forced a fumble when the Ravens went into Pittsburgh last December.
If Flacco is to finally earn his first win in the Steel City, Oher, Yanda, and the Ravens as a whole will have to do a better job of keeping Flacco’s jersey clean and giving him time to look down the field.
“We just have to account for both guys and know where they’re at and make sure we get big-on-big,” Yanda said. “Make sure we don’t have the backs blocking those guys, and study them and be ready for them. That’s how good they are. They’ve got two great guys on the outside, and we’re going to have to play our best football.”