8:30 PM ET, November 28, 2013
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing their best football of the season, but are still on the outside of the muddled AFC playoff picture. With a Thanksgiving night visit to the archrival Baltimore Ravens, they face a team that's essentially in the exact same position.
Both AFC North teams are among the half-dozen teams in the conference currently tied for the final wild-card berth, making this game a potentially season-altering contest.
"That team is hot," Ravens running back Ray Rice said of the Steelers. "They're playing good football right now. They have (a) group, they have their stable of how they want to play football and they're doing a good job of it right now."
The two teams are tied with Titans, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, though Tennessee would make the cut currently. The top two tiebreakers for the wild card are head-to-head record and winning percentage within the conference, and with Baltimore having already lost in Pittsburgh, the Ravens may be especially desperate Thursday.
"They are a tough team, we have to go into their place and look forward to a good battle," said Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "There is a lot on the line with this game like it always is when we play them. It always seems like whenever either team is trying to get somewhere, the other is in their way.
"It's that way this week as we are battling in the division and it's going to be a good game Thanksgiving night."
Pittsburgh (5-6) has won three games in a row, all by double-digits. During the stretch, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been mostly mistake-free, completing 63.3 percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns to just one interception.
Roethlisberger threw for two scores in a 27-11 win at Cleveland in Week 12, but the Steelers' best performance came from their defense. The unit had a season-high five sacks, held the Browns to just 55 rushing yards, and cornerback William Gay sealed the win in the fourth quarter with a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"Defensively, it was simple. We were able to stop the run, and that put us in position to apply pressure to the quarterback," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "In doing so, we were able to create some turnovers and some big plays, and to actually score."
The Steelers have given up just 4.97 yards per play during their streak after New England shredded them for 8.59 per snap in a 55-31 loss Nov. 3, and they could have another good chance to shine Thursday. The Ravens' offense ranks 31st in the NFL, averaging just 4.54 yards per play.
When the teams met on Oct. 20 at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh held the Ravens out of the end zone until Baltimore tied the score at 16 with 1:58 to play. Roethlisberger then drove the Steelers down the field, setting up a game-winning 42-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham.
That close contest was hardly an exception to the rivals' recent matchups. Since the start of the 2009 season, eight of the teams' nine meetings have been decided by exactly three points.
Baltimore (5-6) also is coming off of a win dominated by its defense, having knocked off the New York Jets 19-3 on Sunday. The Ravens' pass defense was outstanding, allowing Geno Smith to compete just 40.9 percent of his throws, and Baltimore cornerback Corey Graham had a pair of interceptions.
"In the end, we just felt like let's win a game just for the defense, for us," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "Not nobody else, just defense let's go out and try to win a game on our own."
The Ravens have been a much better team this season at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is 4-1 at home, allowing just 10.8 points per game in those contests.
The Steelers have won three of their last five visits to Baltimore, though, including a 23-20 win last December with Charlie Batch filling in for an injured Roethlisberger. The Ravens have lost only five of their other 42 home games since 2009.
Though having such an important game on a short week makes for potentially challenging circumstances, the two sides won't have to go through much new information.
"We'll be running stuff that we know and understand against a team that we pretty much understand," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm sure there will be a wrinkle or two that they'll throw at us that we'll have to be ready for and just go play football."
There's one wrinkle Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco would prefer his team not employ, however. Baltimore used backup QB Tyrod Taylor in the wildcat often against the Jets, with Taylor taking five snaps and lining up as a receiver on seven other plays.
Flacco was not a fan.
"I don't like that stuff. ... I'm the quarterback," Flacco said. "I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, I want to be taking the snaps."
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|Avg Points Allowed||23.2||19.6|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||PIT|
|Rush Yds Allowed||PIT|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Pittsburgh leads 16-13|
|Oct 20, 2013||PIT 19, BAL 16|
|Dec 2, 2012||PIT 23, @BAL 20|
|Nov 18, 2012||PIT 10, BAL 13|
|Nov 6, 2011||PIT 20, BAL 23|
|Sep 11, 2011||PIT 7, @BAL 35|
|Jan 15, 2011||PIT 31, BAL 24|
|Dec 5, 2010||PIT 13, @BAL 10|
|Oct 3, 2010||PIT 14, BAL 17|
|Dec 27, 2009||PIT 23, BAL 20|
|Nov 29, 2009||PIT 17, @BAL 20|
|Jan 18, 2009||PIT 23, BAL 14|
|Dec 14, 2008||PIT 13, @BAL 9|
|Sep 29, 2008||PIT 23, BAL 20|
|Dec 30, 2007||PIT 21, @BAL 27|
|Nov 5, 2007||PIT 38, BAL 7|
|Dec 24, 2006||PIT 7, BAL 31|
|Nov 26, 2006||PIT 0, @BAL 27|
|Nov 20, 2005||PIT 13, @BAL 16|
|Oct 31, 2005||PIT 20, BAL 19|
|Dec 26, 2004||PIT 20, BAL 7|
|Sep 19, 2004||PIT 13, @BAL 30|
|Dec 28, 2003||PIT 10, @BAL 13|
|Sep 7, 2003||PIT 34, BAL 15|
|Dec 29, 2002||PIT 34, BAL 31|
|Oct 27, 2002||PIT 31, @BAL 18|
|Jan 20, 2002||PIT 27, BAL 10|
|Dec 16, 2001||PIT 26, @BAL 21|
|Nov 4, 2001||PIT 10, BAL 13|
The Steelers sent five or more pass rushers on six of Joe Flacco's eight dropbacks (75%) on the Ravens' first drive of the third quarter. The Steelers sent added pressure on three of Flacco's 19 first half dropbacks (16%).
Since 2001, the Ravens are 67-2 at home with a 10-point lead. Their last loss came Week 13 last season against the Steelers.
¿ Justin Tucker made a career-high five field goals and has made his last 27 field goal attempts. ¿ The Steelers allowed two completions on passes traveling more than 30 yards downfield for the second time in a game in the last three seasons. ¿ The Ravens allowed their second rushing touchdown of the season. They have still allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league. ¿ Antonio Brown had five catches for 59 yards, continuing his streak of having at least five receptions and 50 yards in every game this season. He is the only player to accomplish that feat this season.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is 5-of-5 on field goals...his most field goals made in a game in his career.
The Steelers have allowed two completions on passes traveling more than 30 yards downfield for the second time in the last three seasons
The Ravens have converted 9-of-14 3rd downs through 13:59 remaining in the game. That is their most 3rd-down conversions this season...and they haven't converted more than 50 percent of their 3rd downs in game this season.
The Steelers sent five or more pass rushers on eight of Joe Flacco's 19 second-half dropbacks (42%), after sending added pressure on only three of his 19 first-half dropbacks (16%). Flacco was 6-of-8 against added pressure in the second half and 7-of-10 (70%) overall, his highest completion percentage against additional pressure this season. Coming into the game, he was completing 52% of his passes against five or more pass rushers, 31st among 38 qualified quarterbacks.
The Ravens improve to 5-1 at home this season, but are a dismal 1-5 on the road. They have actually scored more away from Baltimore this season, but their defense has been 2 touchdowns per game better at home.[+]
No Place Like Home - Ravens This Season
With Roethlisberger's touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, he becomes the first Steelers player with 20 Pass TD in 5 different seasons. Roethlisberger has 211 career Pass TD, 1 shy of Terry Bradshaw's Steelers record.
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