Stat keys to watch for Steelers, Ravens

A snapshot statistical look at the other big game this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens showdown tonight.

• For two teams that are historically known for their run games, look for a lot of passing on first down. Both the Steelers and Ravens rank in the bottom eight in the NFL in terms of yards per rush on first down.

• But if they do elect to run: The Ravens, rate eighth in the NFL in rushing yardage gained up the middle, led by running back Ray Rice's 3.96 yds per rush on 92 such rushes (ninth-most in NFL). However, that plays into Pittsburgh's hands. The Steelers are allowing 2.9 yds per rush on runs that go up the middle, second-best in the NFL.

• The importance of establishing the run ties to this nugget: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has proven himself to be rather adept at play-action passing. He's completed 65.3 percent of his play-action passes, with nine touchdowns and only one interception.

• Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not had success throwing to the right side of the field (four touchdowns, four interceptions), so look for the Steelers to attack over the middle and to the left. He's thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions when he looks left or over the middle and his passer rating on such throws is 114.8. Roethlisberger's passer rating when throwing over the middle is an NFL-best 133.8.

Baltimore excels in defending the pass over the middle though, ranking fifth in the NFL in terms of opponents passer rating on such throws (64.7).

• If the Steelers go deep, it's worth noting that Mike Wallace is tied for eighth in the NFL having been targeted 20 times on throws 21 or more yards downfield. He’s 2nd in the league in receptions (11) and receiving yards (442) and leads the NFL with six touchdowns on such throws.

HOWEVER, only one team has allowed fewer receptions (9) and only two teams have allowed a lower completion percentage (23.7) on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield than the Ravens, but five of those nine catches have gone for touchdowns. Only seven teams have allowed more touchdown passes on deep balls this season.

Flacco vs Roethlisberger
Ranks Passing on 3rd Down

• When it comes to third-down situations the Steelers will have a big edge. Roethlisberger has significantly outperformed Flacco in making plays in these situations.

The Steelers defense also excels defending on third down. It ranks third in the league in third-down interceptions with six, and also ranks in the top six in the NFL in lowest opponents passer rating and the least yards allowed per attempt.