Thursday Night Preview: Ravens vs. Steelers

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Updated: October 1, 2015
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For at least the next four weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered an MCL sprain during Sunday’s victory over the St. Louis Rams. So, they’ll have to lean on Mike Vick to take over the quarterbacking duties until he returns.

Vick was signed by the Steelers during the offseason to serve as a backup to Roethlisberger, and his number will be called upon earlier than expected. Being from the same area as Mike Tomlin, Hampton Roads, VA, Vick already has a strong relationship with his head coach. And Tomlin seems to be confident in Vick’s ability to move the offense while Big Ben recovers. But, then again, Tomlin always seems to exude confidence in his players.

Thursday night they’ll be facing a Baltimore Ravens team that has gotten off to a disappointing 0-3 start and will be desperate for a victory. They were on the verge of defeating the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday — in what turned into a late-game shootout, with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green making clutch plays down the stretch.

The Ravens have struggled to rush the ball this season, as they’re ranked 27th in the league — tied with the Miami Dolphins — in rushing yards per game, at just 72.7. After finishing with 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground last season, Justin Forsett has just 124 rushing yards and zero touchdowns through three weeks. Not good.

But, the Ravens are eighth in the league in passing yards per contest, averaging 282 per game. Joe Flacco has been finding veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. early and often over the past two weeks, as Smith is third in the NFL in receiving yards (349) — behind only Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones (440) and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (436).

But will Vick be able to find Brown the way Big  Ben does? Brown has been targeted 35 times this season, and has come down with 29 receptions. That’s an 83 percent catch rate when he’s targeted, which is absolutely amazing. Brown has at least five catches for 50 yards or more in 35 straight regular-season games — but, will that streak come to an end tonight?

Vick does have the ability to get the ball down the field, but he’s struggled with his accuracy over the past two seasons. Vick completed 5-of-6 passes when he entered the game against the Rams, but for only 38 yards, zero touchdowns and was sacked twice. The last time we looked at Vick as a formidable threat under center, was in 2013 when he was still with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He’s now 35 years old, not as fast as he once was and not as scary for opposing defenses to face. Expect the Ravens to pressure Vick relentlessly Thursday night, looking to force turnovers. On the flip side, expect the Steelers to establish their run game against the Ravens. They now have Le’Veon Bell back on the field, as he missed the first two games due to suspension. He returned against the Rams, and though he didn’t have a 100-yard rushing day, he had 19 rushes for 62 yards and a TD, and also caught seven passes for 70 yards. He’s a duel threat out of the backfield, and will be Vick’s best friend until Big Ben returns.

If the Steelers are able to win this game, they’ll be ecstatic — knowing the position the Ravens are in and with the Bengals off and running at 3-0. The Ravens cannot afford to drop to 0-4. Their playoff chances will officially drown if they do. Only three teams have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start since 1990, and the Ravens are hoping they can make it a fourth.

 

 

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He is a writer for ESPN, and has written for Rant Sports and FanSided covering the Washington Redskins. He's also covered high school basketball for Virginia Preps (Rivals.com). Josiah is from Chesapeake, VA and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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