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Old 11-06-2011, 09:02 AM   #1
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Default Steelers vs. Ravens: Key matchups

Steelers vs. Ravens: Key matchups
Posted: Saturday, November 5, 2011 11:00 pm

Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | 0 comments


On opening day when all-star linebacker Terrell Suggs wrecked havoc on the Steelers, Max Starks was an unemployed left tackle watching the game on a TV in an Arizona sports bar. As Suggs recorded three sacks, including two that resulted in fumbles, Marcus Gilbert watched in awe from the Steelers' sideline. He was in uniform as the Ravens rolled 35-7, but he didn't play. Tonight, though, both Starks and Gilbert will be on the field and it's their job to keep Suggs in check.

So much has changed for the Steelers since that opening-day defeat at Baltimore, and one of the more positive changes has been the improved play at tackle. Certainly re-signing Starks, an eight-year pro, was significant. Since Starks was signed on Oct. 5, the Steelers are 4-0 and getting more production offensively. Gilbert has contributed, too, with steady improvement at right tackle.

Gilbert is now at starter because Willie Colon suffered a season-ending injury on the last play of the Steelers' opening-day embarrassment. As Suggs sacked Ben Roethlisberger, there was a five-player collision that left Colon with a torn triceps muscle.

"The guy's a beast," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said of Suggs.

Including playoff games, Suggs has sacked Roethlisberger 15.5 times. That's the most Roethlisberger has been dropped by any NFL any defender.

Because Suggs moves around so much, he could come from any direction. So both Starks and Gilbert will get the chance to block him.

"Can't give Max enough kudos for how he's played since he came back," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "But he has a heck of a challenge this week. The young fella (Gilbert) is going to have his hands full, too."


It would be unfair to say that Lawrence Timmons has been a disappointment. He's played solid football. But he certainly hasn't been spectacular as so many of his teammates predicted during training camp. In fairness to Timmons, he had to move from inside linebacker to the outside the past four games while James Harrison sat out with an eye injury. Still, Timmons has yet to produce any big plays.

Timmons doesn't have any sacks. He hasn't intercepted a pass. He hasn't forced a fumble. He hasn't recovered a fumble. Again, he's been solid. But nowhere near great.

It would help the Steelers' chances of winning tonight if Timmons could have his 2011 breakout game. He needs to come up big as the Steelers try to contain the Ravens' best offensive weapon, running back Ray Rice.

When the Steelers lost to the Ravens on 9/11, Timmons was credited with 10 tackles. But that's a deceiving number. For example, on the first snap of the game, Timmons made the tackle, but did so after Rice ran for 36 of his 107 yards. In the second quarter when Rice caught an 11-yard TD pass, he burned Timmons on the play.

"Ray Rice is still a central part of their offense, both rushing and receiving," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He hurt us in a variety of ways the last time we played them. We need to be better against him this time around."

In seven games, Rice has racked up 862 yards from scrimmage - 489 rushing, 373 receiving - and leads the Ravens with seven TDs (five rushing, two receiving).
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