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Week 16: Steelers Key Matchup

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The The Tribune-Review
Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009
 

Steelers S Ryan Clark and S Tyrone Carter vs. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco

STEELERS — S RYAN CLARK AND S TYRONE CARTER

The Steelers' secondary has been picked on a lot and that especially goes for safeties Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter. Last week, the Steelers were burnt for pass plays of 83 yards and 49 yards. In fact, they have surrendered 11 plays of 30 yards or more this season, with eight of them coming with All-Pro Troy Polamalu out of the lineup. Polamalu will miss his 10th game today. Opponents have exposed the Steelers' deep coverage. Eight of the 11 plays of more than 30 yards in the last month alone - three to Kansas City, two to Baltimore, two to Green Bay and one to Oakland. The two have no interceptions and only seven pass defenses since November. They are expected to get help from veteran Deshea Townsend this week.

RAVENS — QB JOE FLACCO

The Ravens' offense has made a transition this year into throwing the ball down field more. And nobody has been as successful at doing such this season as Flacco. Flacco has completed 15 passes of 30 yards or more this year, including four of 50 yards or longer. He has 40 completions of 20 yards or longer. Flacco has thrown for more than 300 yards three times all of which were the top passing days of his career. Flacco has been particularly dangerous in the fourth quarter. He has thrown for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns while having a 94.5 passer rating. Only Dallas' Tony Romo has better numbers. Flacco threw for 289 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting.

ADVANTAGE: RAVENS QB JOE FLACCO

Flacco has taken a big step from his rookie year until now and a lot of that had to do with coach John Harbaugh giving more responsibility to his quarterback. Last year, Baltimore was a run first team. This year, it passes more than it throws. Flacco attempted 428 passes for 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This year, he has thrown the ball 27 more times for 374 yards and has five more touchdowns and one less interception with two games remaining. Last week against the Bears, Flacco threw four touchdown passes, setting a career high and tying the record for more touchdowns thrown in one game by a Baltimore Raven.

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