Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) kneels on the field after failing to catch a pass in the closing minutes of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) kneels on the field after failing to catch a pass in the closing minutes of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The Steelers fell to 4-3 before the bye week when New England came to town and did to the black and gold what they do to everyone they play, beat them.  Coming off the bye week, the health of one Ben Roethlisberger is still questionable and there is probably a 50/50 shot on whether he plays or not.  If this were a playoff game he’d suit up but Mike Tomlin needs to determine how important he feels this divisional game against the hated Ravens is.  The battle is for first place and the game certainly holds major importance but the Steelers can win with Landry Jones if necessary and may be better served holding Roethlisberger for one more week to ensure his health is as close to 100% moving forward through the rest of the season.

Here are the Keys to A Steelers Victory:

  • Assuming Landry Jones is the starter, he needs to limit his red zone mistakes and distribute the ball to his play makers like Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell.
  • Assuming Ben Roethlisberger is the starter, he needs to make sure he is distributing the ball quickly so he doesn’t get hurt. He doesn’t need to be the QB he is at 100% but he can’t be hobbled out there either.
  • The defense has to get to Joe Flacco. They’ve had the bye week to get things straightened out in regards to the pass rush and it needs to change now. The lack of pass rush is killing this team and there is no more time to waste.
  • The secondary needs to play more effectively. It’s a broken record but the secondary is no good and part of that is due to the lack of pass rush, but the other part is quite simply a lack of execution. They have to keep their receivers in front of them and not let Joe Flacco beat them on the deep balls.

Here are a Few Things to Watch:

  • Artie Burns-The Steelers first round pick in 2016 is getting his very first NFL start, how will he do?
  • Ben Roethlisberger-If he plays, how effective will he be? Traditionally it takes him a week coming off injury to get back into game speed.
  • The physical battle-it never matters what the records are with these teams, the battle is always vicious and extremely physical.
  • The crowd-It should be ½ terrible towel waving Steeler fanatics, how raucous can they make it in favor of the visiting Steelers?  I predict it to look like a home game in there.

Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association http://www.steelnationassociation.com– Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at mike@steelnationassociation.com.

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