Heinz Field – Sunday 4th January at 01:15 live on Sky Sports 2
Where else can you begin in this Play Off game than talking about Le’Veon Bell and his potential absence from the game? It was finally made official that Bell will not be taking part in this game on Friday and that is a huge loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they look to improve their 3-0 record against the Baltimore Ravens, their Divisional rivals from the AFC North.
Bell’s loss is not going to play a key part in the Pittsburgh plans to run the ball as that is going to be a difficulty even if the Running Back was available- instead, it is an issue that Ben Roethlisberger will be without a player he has used heavily in the passing game when looking for a safety blanket and one who has been very good in protection when the Quarter Back goes back to throw.
Joe Harris, Dri Archer and newly signed Ben Tate will all try and have some success against the Ravens on the ground, but Haloti Ngata only improves Baltimore’s Defensive Line and Roethlisberger needs to throw the ball to win this game.
It is going to rain on Saturday, but that shouldn’t prevent Ben Roethlisberger attacking an injured Baltimore Secondary that has missed Jimmy Smith and now have to deal with Antonio Brown and a strong passing Offense.
If this game does go the way of the last one that ended at Heinz Field, Baltimore will need Joe Flacco to perform much better than he has been doing over the last three weeks. Justin Forsett should be able to help by running the ball effectively, but the Pittsburgh Defence has shown more life of late and have been an improving unit which could pose some real problems for Flacco.
Baltimore’s Offensive Line will give Flacco time to make some throws downfield, but his accuracy has been something of a concern and the pocket won’t be completely clean now the Steelers have figured out a way to find a productive pass rush.
I have been hoping that Pittsburgh’s spread would come down a little after Bell was officially ruled out, but that hasn’t been the case just yet. However, I do think they will prove to be too good at home where teams have been very good against the spread in the Wild Card Round over the last three years.
The Steelers have also won all 3 previous Play Off games against Baltimore and that includes a 7 point win when the teams met in January 2011. I believe Ben Roethlisberger wins the Quarter Back battle in what could be a surprisingly high-scoring game and helps the Steelers move on to Denver next week for the Divisional Round games.
Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers – 3 Points at 1.88
Price correct at the time of writing