Baltimore (0-3) at Pittsburgh (2-1), 8:25 p.m. Thursday on CBS and NFL Network. Week four of the 2015 season gets underway in the Steel City when Pittsburgh hosts the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in an AFC North showdown Thursday night.

Pittsburgh enters Week 4 following a 12-6 victory over St. Louis. Steelers running back Le’ Veon Bell tallied 132 scrimmage yards (62 rushing, 70 receiving) with a rushing touchdown. Bell now has 3,606 career scrimmage yards, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis (4,603) as the second player in Steelers franchise history to reach 3,500 scrimmage yards in his first three seasons with the team.

“I like the way he plays the game,” says Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin about Bell. “He wants to be a reason why we win. He is never fazed by the elements. He had a good look in his eye and he is always positive. Those are just some of the reasons that we like his play.”

Pittsburgh quarterback Michael Vick will take over for Ben Roethlisberger in the prime time affair Thursday night and will make his first start of the season after entering last week’s game in the third quarter. Vick is 59-51-1 as a starter in his career. In 13 seasons, he has passed for 22,131 yards and accounted for 167 total touchdowns (131 passing, 36 rushing). Vick’s 6,005 rushing yards are the most all-time by a quarterback.

“This guy has been in the National Football League a long time,” says Tomlin about preparing for Thursday’s game with Vick as the starter. “Nothing is really new to him. He is the type of guy that is in shape over a 12-month calendar, so getting a level of football condition is not an issue. He just brings a lot of things to the table that are helpful in the process.”

Baltimore enters Week 4 following a 28-24 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. The Ravens led only once in the 4-point loss to the Bengals at home in Charm Cithy last Sunday when C.J. Mosley returned a Cincy fumble 41 yards halfway through the final 15 minutes of action. Neither club managed to breach, let alone reach the 100-yard rushing barrier in the contest at M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore had 36, while the Bengals had a whopping 86).

“We process this by moving on to the next game,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “We have to play a game on Thursday night against a great football team. We have to go out there and be our best. We have to play winning football. You don’t really have time to process this, you just have to move on to the next game.”

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco completed 32 of 49 passes (65.3 percent) for 362 yards and two touchdowns for a 92.4 passer rating last week. Both of Flacco’s touchdowns went to wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., who had 13 receptions for 186 yards against the Bengals. Smith’s 13 receptions tied for the most in a single game, while his 186 receiving yards rank as the third-most in a single game in Ravens franchise history. Bengals QB Andy Dalton outpaced Flacco with 383 yards and three TDs in the win. The Ravens were 8 of 15 on third down conversions (1 of 2 on fourth down tries) and held the ball for 30:08, while Baltimore was 7 of 16 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 29:52.

Flacco enters Week 4 having compiled a 4-2 record as a starter on Thursday night. Since entering the league in 2008, Flacco has passed for 1,596 yards and eight touchdowns at Heinz Field, the most of any Steelers opponent during that span.

Pittsburgh leads the series 21-17, while outscoring the Ravens 747-723. The Ravens have won six of the past 10 regular-season matchups against the Steelers, including a 26-6 win on Thursday night last season and seven of those 10 matchups have been decided by three or fewer points. Baltimore is are 4-4 on Thursday night, while the Steelers are 10-15. They met twice in the regular season in 2014, splitting the two games in that series with each team winning at home and again in the post-season, with Baltimore winning in the Steel City in the AFC Divisonal Playoffs.

They met in week two in Charm City and the Ravens held Pittsburgh to a pair of Sean Suisham field goals to take a 26-6 win. Flacco and TE Owen Daniels connected on a pair of TDs in the contest, while K Justin Tucker connected on four field goals for the win. Baltimore outrushed the Steelers 157-99 in the 20-point win, while sacking Roethlisberger twice and forcing three Pittsburgh turnovers in the win. Baltimore in the contest went 5 of 12 on third down tries and was successful in their only fourth down try and kept the ball for 35:08, while the Steelers held on to the pigskin for 24:52 and was 6 of 12 on third down tries.

Game two… Pittsburgh and this time, the Steelers got revenge on the Ravens in week nine as Roethlisberger passed for 340 yards and six TDs (despite being sacked three times) to win 43-23. Pittsburgh trailed 7-0 after the first 15 minutes of action and led 22-10 at the half. Baltimore did manage to outrush the Steelers in the second game but neither club came anywhere near the 100-yard barrier (Baltimore had 63, Pittsburgh had a somewhat dismal 55 yards). As far as third down tries, there wasn’t anything for either club’s fan base to cheer about (Baltimore was 3 of 13, Pittuburgh was 6 of 14) but they did well on fourth donw tries as the Ravens were 2 of 2, while Pittsburgh was 1 of 1. The Steelers ruled the clock in front of the home crowd, keeping the ball for 31:26, while the Ravens held on to it for 28:34.

We now go to the post-season, the first round and the winner got to face New England and Tom Brady, while the loser had the winter to think about what happened. Pittsburgh led 3-0 after the first 15 minutes of play at home in the Steel City. Baltimore then went to work, outscoring their hosts by a 30-14 margin in the final three quarters of play to win 30-17. Although they were outrushed by the Steelers 68-49, Baltimore did manage to sack Rothelisberger five times and pick him off twice, while Flacco threw a pair of TDs to seal the win and Pittsburgh’s fate. Again, third down conversions were a big issue as both teams struggled (Baltimore went 4 of 11, Pittsburgh was 5 of 16) in that catagory but did well on fourth down tries as the Ravens were 1 of 1, while Pittsburgh went 2 of 3. Even though they lost the contest, the home team ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 35:17, while the Ravens held it for 24:43.

In the first meeting in week two, Baltimore was favored by 2 1/2 and covered the spread with their 20-point win but both teams missed the over/under of 44 with 32 points. In week nine, with the contest in the Steel City, Pittsburgh was favored by 1 and won by 20. This time, both clubs covered the 48 over/under with 66 points.

Game three… round three… for all the chips and salsa, the odds makers liked the Steelers as 3-point favorites. Baltimore covered the 3, winning by 13 and both clubs barely covered the 46 1/2 over/under with 47 points. The boys and girls in Vegas like the Ravens as a 2 1/2 point favorite on the road with the over/under at 43 1/2. Even without Ben, those numbers make sense but the Steelers rarely lose at home. Flacco and the Ravens will make this one interesting to open week four but Vick and the Steelers come out on top at home and cover the 2 1/2.

BROADCAST INFORAMTION: CBS and NFL Network at 8:25 p.m.: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, Tony Boselli. SIRIUS: 83 (Baltimore), 93 (Pittsburgh). XM: 226 (Pittsburgh).

Injury Report

Baltimore
OUT: DE Chris Canty (calf), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), T Eugene Monroe (concussion), WR Breshad Perriman (knee)

Pittsburgh
OUT: DT Daniel McCullers (knee), QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee), LB Ryan Shazier (shoulder), TE Matt Spaeth (hand)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Cortez Allen (knee)
PROBABLE: LB James Harrison (thumb), C Cody Wallace (illness)

Weather Outlook: Mostly cloudy and 58 degrees.

Broadcast information and injury report courtesy the National Football League; odds courtesty Don Best and USA Today, weather forecast courtesy The Weather Channel.

Advertisements