Week 4: Steelers (2-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-3), Heinz Field (68,400)
Tonight, 8:25 p.m., (CBS)
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WMBA-AM (1230), WBVP-AM (1460)
Line: Ravens by 3 (over/under: 44)
Weather: 58 degrees, mostly cloudy
Ravens 30, Steelers 13
Sept. 19, 2004, M&T Bank Stadium
In Week 2, the Steelers suffered their only loss of the regular season, but it was notable for one other reason. Trailing 20-0 in the third quarter, quarterback Tommy Maddox suffered an elbow injury, paving the way for rookie Ben Roethlisberger to make his NFL debut. The 11th pick of the 2004 draft completed 12 of 20 passes for 176 yards with two touchdowns (Antwaan Randle-El and Hines Ward). Roethlisberger was also picked off twice, the second of which Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister returned 51 yards for a touchdown with 2:56 remaining. Maddox started two more games the following season, losing both, but he effectively lost the starting job to Roethlisberger that day in Baltimore.
Can the Steelers win with Mike Vick at quarterback?
Yes, but the Steelers can't expect Vick to be the Vick of 2004 or even 2010, when he led Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively, to the playoffs. If Vick plays within himself and utilizes the talent he has around him, most notably Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the Steelers can have a modicum of success. Though he showed obvious signs of rust last week when he replaced Ben Roethlisberger, Vick still completed 5 of 6 passes for 38 yards. Mike Tomlin praised Vick for getting the Steelers "out of the stadium." He'll need to do more of the same. That means realizing he's 35 these days and not putting himself or his teammates in vulnerable positions, such as turning over the ball or taking needless sacks. No, this isn't the Michael Vick Experience of a decade ago, but it might be enough to get the Steelers out of the stadium and into the postseason.
Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil vs. Steelers' tackles
Elvis Dumervil has 10 sacks in 10 career games against Pittsburgh, including five sacks in three games last season (when he tied his career high with 17). Dumervil has just one sack through three games this year but is always a threat. With the season-ending injury to LB Terrell Suggs, Dumervil has moved around as opposed to staying on one side, so both LT Kelvin Beachum and RT Marcus Gilbert should see plenty of Dumervil. Between Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw and Jason Babin, the Ravens can still get after the quarterback. Not that Beachum is using last January's wild-card loss, a game in which the Steelers' offensive line surrendered five sacks, as motivation. "That was last year, this year is this year," Beachum said. "This week's challenge is the Baltimore Ravens of 2015. We can't live in the past. whether it's good or bad. We have to take care of what's going on right now."
When the Steelers have the ball ...
The Steelers’ offense isn't going to look the same with Mike Vick starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger, but don’t expect them to be a shell of themselves. Vick is a proven veteran who should be able to make plays with both his arm and his feet. The Steelers have usually always struggled to run the ball against the Ravens, but if Vick can find the playmakers the Steelers have on offense and get the ball into Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown’s hands quickly, the Steelers have every chance of winning despite Roethlisberger’s absence. "I’m really confident that Vick can come in and handle the things that we’re putting on his plate," said Bell. "We’re going to see what we’re going to do. Obviously it’s going to be a little different offense but we still have playmakers everywhere. As long as everybody else does their job and make it easier for Vick, I think we’ll be good.”
When the Ravens have the ball ...
The Ravens have had a tough time getting any production from anyone not named Steve Smith Sr., so being able to stop Smith is key for the Steelers' defense. After being held to just two catches for 13 yards in the season opener against Denver, Smith had 150 yards against the Raiders and 186 against the Bengals. The Steelers will also need to continue to put pressure on the quarterback. In the three games against the Ravens last season, the Steelers sacked Joe Flacco four times in their victory and just once in their two losses. "(Flacco) is changing things at the line of scrimmage, getting them into ideal plays, things that you would expect from a franchise-caliber quarterback like him," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Q&A: With fullback ROOSEVELT NIX
As told to Times Steelers Correspondent Kris Lancaster:
KL: You played defensive end in your college career at Kent State but are now a fullback. Are there any similarities?
RN: You definitely have to be physical. That’s what fullbacks do, they’re head-bangers. That’s kind of like what a defensive lineman does. At the end of the day, it’s basically like the linebacker of the offense.
KL: You had 24 sacks in you career at Kent State, more than Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward had in their college careers. Do you think you could give them a run for their money and still get after the quarterback?
RN: Oh, no. I haven't played on the defensive side of the ball in a year and a half. I’d definitely be a little rusty. Those guys (Tuitt and Heyward) are just unbelievably talented. That’s what they do for a living. There’s no way somebody could do what they do on a day to day basis without training for it.
KL: Late in the St. Louis game when the offense was trying to run out the clock, you served as the lead blocker to Le’Veon Bell. Is that something we could see more of?
RN: Whatever the coaches call, whether it’s me in the game or not. I’m going to do my best on the call.
- A small, elusive wide receiver who fights for every ball thrown his way? Sounds a lot like Antonio Brown. Before him, though, there was Steve Smith. The Steelers will face Smith for the sixth -- and next-to-last -- time tonight. Smith, the NFL's 13th all-time leading receiver (13,611) and a likely Hall of Famer, has announced that his 15th season will be his last. But he hasn't enjoyed much success against the Steelers (24 catches for 237 yards and no touchdowns). Meanwhile, Brown has 45 catches for 556 yards and one TD in nine games against Baltimore. "Antonio is just beginning his trek, in a way," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s been in the league for five or six years now. He’s one of the very best, if not the best in the game. I just think he’s a great player. Steve has been doing it for a long time. It’s pretty amazing that Steve has been able to still do it, but he’s doing it. I can see the comparison."
- Many thought that with new defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s one-gap scheme, defensive ends Cameron Hayward and Stephon Tuitt could each register double digits in sacks. Through three games, Tuitt is well on his way to that with 2.5, becoming more and more of a dominant player each week. “We hope that he continues to get better,” Butler said. “I think the more he plays with more of the same guys we can put around him, the better the whole team is going to be.” Tuitt not only leads the team in sacks, but he is also tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries with LB James Harrison with three.
- Is Joe Flacco really an elite quarterback? The Steelers know the answer to that. Baltimore's quarterback, the Super Bowl MVP just three years ago, is 3-2 in his last five games at Heinz Field, including a 30-17 win in January. In the AFC Wildcard game, Flacco threw for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his last five games against the Steelers, Flacco has completed 68 percent of his passes. But the Ravens' offense is more than just Flacco and ageless wonder Smith at wide receiver. RB Justin Forsett rushed for a career high 1,266 yards in 2014. TE Crockett Gilmore has 10 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns. “It’s a team effort,” CB William Gay said. “As a team they have many weapons, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from having big days.”
- Jerome Bettis will receive his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony tonight. Bettis became the 21st Steeler to be inducted in Canton on Aug. 8. On Friday night at 9 p.m., "Jerome Bettis: A Football Life" will premiere on the NFL Network. The hour-long documentary looks back at the career of the NFL's sixth all-time leading rusher and includes interviews with Ben Roethlisberger, Art Rooney II, Ray Lewis and Lou Holtz. “(Bettis) is held as the standard that a lot of our players look to when they want to try to understand what it is to be a Steeler,” Rooney said. Bettis becomes the latest area subject to receive the "Football Life" treatment after "The Immaculate Reception," Joe Greene, and Beaver Falls' Joe Namath along with Aliquippa's Mike Ditka and Darrelle Revis.
The Ravens aren't going to go 0-16 and are due for a break. The Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger certainly qualifies as one. On a short week, it's just not enough time for the Steelers to adequately prepare Mike Vick to the offense. The Steelers have lost three of their last four to Baltimore, playoffs included, that trend continues Thursday night ... Ravens 27, Steelers 17
BY THE NUMBERS
0: Seasons prior to 2015 in which Baltimore started 0-3
14: Combined points by which Baltimore has lost its three games
17: Years since a team started 0-3 to make the playoffs (Buffalo Bills in 1998)
9-7: Steelers record without Ben Roetlhlisberger at quarterback
"We're pretty desperate, too." -- Antonio Brown, WR, on Steelers' need to match Ravens' urgency
"You look at it, it’s come down to a few plays, big plays. For some reason we haven’t made them. We have to start making those plays." -- Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore WR, on difference between 0-3 start and 3-0