Thursday, January 15, 2009

So it comes down to this...

A tad less than 3 days away from the big game (not to be confused with The Big Game).  Things are becoming clearer.  For the Ravens the big issues are if CB Samari Rolle and OLB/DE Terrell Suggs are going to be able to play.  Both participated in the walk through but did not practice.  The biggest positive to take from that is that they have not yet been ruled out for the game, since the walkthrough is where they go over the actual game plan and strategies / tendencies they expect to face.  So that is a small silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud.

For the Steelers, SS Troy Polamalu practiced, but C Justin Hartwig did not.  Both are expected to play on Sunday.

This is news because for the Ravens, if Rolle can't go then they have to "Next Man Up" all their cornerbacks.  And against a passing offense like the one the Steelers have that is a dangerous proposition for the Ravens.  And if Suggs cannot play then they lose one of the best pure pass rushers in the league, again making the Steelers' passing offense better by subtraction.  If neither can go, it starts to look like a long game for the Ravens.  And as far as the Steelers go, Polamalu is a hitter / tackler / enforcer of the first order, and losing him puts the middle of the field up for grabs for the Ravens' offense.  And if Hartwig is out, the backup center plays.  The Steelers offensive line has been (rightly) maligned all season for allowing Roethlisberger to take the amount of punishment he has taken in the form of sacks and hits.  If the backup is in, the OL is going to have to help chip on Ngata, who is one of the best (and most underrated and under appreciated) nose tackles in the league.  If they have to use a back or another lineman to chip and double team him, it decreases the amount of plays they can run, weakens both the running AND the passing game, and allows players like Trevor Pryce and Marques Douglas to have less interference on THEIR way to the QB.  It comes down to numbers.  If the Steelers have to play Max Protect all game it can only increase the chance for a mistake down the field to help the Ravens turn the game to their favor.  A hurried QB is a QB who will throw up the air ball, and that is when Ed Reed is at his absolute playmaking best.

If I hear more you will know more.

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