Happy gameday, everyone.
In a matter of hours, the Ravens will take on the Steelers, which is still hard for me to believe. It feels like summer is still in full swing and the lockout just ended yesterday, but here we are. It’s mid-September and NFL football is upon us.
We all know the stakes of this afternoon’s game despite the fact it’s Week 1 on the schedule. Today could go a long way to determining how the AFC North and the conference playoff picture shake out.
Here are three keys to today’s game from the Ravens’ perspective:
Bring Big Ben down
When the Ravens get their shots at Ben Roethlisberger, they have to bring the Steelers quarterback to the ground. While the vast majority of quarterbacks are most effective when given a comfortable pocket to step into, Roethlisberger excels when plays break down and he has to improvise outside the pocket. The 6-foot-5, 241-lb. signal caller has the ability to brush off defensive linemen like they’re gnats and find receivers downfield, so the Ravens have to gang tackle, keep Roethlisberger in the pocket and do everything they can to limit his big plays after initial contact.
Look for Lee
Lee Evans was a beast in his two preseason appearances, making six catches for a team-high 128 yards and a touchdown despite seeing somewhat limited action. The Ravens have to hope their new wide receiver still has his mojo despite suffering an injury which briefly put his left ankle in a walking boot two weeks ago. Evans has game-changing big-play potential, and he’ll be matching up against two somewhat banged up cornerbacks today in Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden. If the speedy wide receiver can keep his groove from the preseason and carry it into today’s game, the Ravens could put up some big numbers against Pittsburgh’s secondary.
Time to shine for young corners
As you might be aware by now (sarcasm intended), the Ravens have decided to put a lot of weight on the shoulders of two young, inexperienced cornerbacks in Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. Both guys are tall, athletic, physical and had strong preseasons, but entering today, they have just one NFL start between them. How will Williams and Smith handle the spotlight and the matchup with one of the fastest wide receiving corps in the league? We’ll find out.