The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Of Rave Concern

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It is very difficult and dangerous to bet against the Baltimore Ravens defense... except, in these specific circumstances, against what I consider a slightly healthier Steelers defensive unit. That's why I'm taking James Harrison and Troy Polamalu over Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

My thinking here really isn't about the Steelers' defense, but rather the growing wear and tear on the Ravens'. You can still feel the bruises just from watching the Ravens clash with the Titans last weekend. Both teams took a pounding and it led to several key Ravens going down -- namely LB Terrell Suggs and CB Samari Rolle.

I have little doubt Ray Lewis and his "Dogs in the house" will be fired up and determined to knock down Big Ben and stuff Willie Parker. Ed Reed will be targeting Hines Ward as well. Because there is nothing the Ravens want more than to eliminate their bitter division rivals with a Super Bowl berth at stake. But something has to give. Tennessee drove the ball multiple times down the field and into scoring position. The Ravens deserve credit for making the necessary stops against Kerry Collins and company, but there should be some concern heading into Pittsburgh. Can they do it again? Remember, Chris Johnson went down after scoring his early TD against Baltimore and couldn't go after that.

I think the road is weakening Baltimore slightly and I'm not sure they are physically fit enough to stop a red-hot Steelers offense for sixty minutes. With their own RB LeRon McClain a bit banged up, the Ravens might not run the ball effectively. Not against Pittsburgh's defense. And that may affect Joe Flacco and the passing game which would likely cost them the time of possession battle. The longer its own defense is on the field, the worse it will be for Baltimore as the game goes on.

No question it will be a knock-down, drag-out fight Sunday night. A fumble here or an interception there could be the difference between heading to the Super Bowl or to the living room couch. And with all that said, there's no reason the winning team couldn't be Baltimore. But I don't think it will be.

In the end, I believe the Ravens defense will be the ultimate difference-maker in the game. I'm just not as sure it will lead to the outcome you've come to expect from them.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  January 14, 2009; 9:45 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Pittsburgh Steelers , Zach Leibowitz Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Injuries? Do you read the news? Troy Palomalu is hurt. He strained is wittle calf muscle and wont be 100% for the game. If all you base it on is injuries then you must admit that Pitt is more beat up. If you base it on skill then you must admit that the Ravens will eat the Steelers and crap out the bones. They are hungrier. The two earlier games were a slap in the face. Now Ray Lewis is awake and he is angry. Let the pain begin

Posted by: Ravenous1 | January 14, 2009 10:29 AM

I agree with you.The road goes thru Pittsburgh.I think Flacco's charm ends here.

Posted by: sleibowitz | January 14, 2009 4:08 PM

Baltimore has a damn good chance this weekend even though suggs and rolle are hurt, they want this win bad. the past two games were down to the wire even though the first meeting on monday night should have been a baltimore win with derrick mason's catch in the endzone that was not ruled a touchdown they replayed it on sports center and showed both feet were in bounds. this will be close but i got my money on B-more. despite the advantage the steelers have at home.

Posted by: mddeaconmarlin | January 15, 2009 3:45 PM

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