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Week 12: Steelers Key Matchup

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By The The Tribune-Review
Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009

Steelers LB James Farrior vs. Ravens RB Ray Rice


James Farrior leads the team with 80 tackles this season and has added two sacks and a fumble recovery. Farrior had led the Steelers in tackles in each of the past three years. The two-time Pro-Bowler, who will turn 35 in January, hasn't lost a step when it comes to stopping the run as he is the main reason why the Steelers lead the league in run defense. However, he has had some troubles covering running backs out of the backfield. Cincinnati's Brian Leonard caught a critical pass in a Week 3 game against Farrior that led to the game-winning score. The Steelers have allowed running backs to catch 39 passes this year.


Ray Rice has turned into one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the NFL in his first year as a starter. Rice is 11th in the league in rushing with 733 yards and eighth in the league with 56 receptions for 515 yards. His 1,248 all-purpose yards from scrimmage rank third in the league only behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson and St. Louis' Steven Jackson. Rice has accounted for 25 percent of Baltimore's first downs this year, only Reggie Wayne's 58 and Maurice Jones-Drew's 53 are more than Rice's 51. Last week against the Colts, Rice produced his seventh consecutive game with at least 100 total net yards from scrimmage. He caught 7 passes for 64 yards.


Nobody has stopped, or even slowed Rice this year, so there is no reason to believe the Steelers will have any luck. Rice, who is small in stature, has been a pleasant surprise in the run game, but has done most of his damage in the pass game as quarterback Joe Flacco's checkdown receiver. Rice had a monster game against the Vikings earlier in the season, when he caught 10 passes for 117 yards. The Steelers have to find a way to control Rice, and Farrior will get the challenge for most of the game to try to locate and then defend against him out of the backfield. Rice will also be matched up at times against the other three linebackers in James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley.

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