The Baltimore Ravens will see their rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. What are the keys for the Ravens to win the game?
The Jacksonville Jaguars burst out of the gates last Sunday and never stopped pouncing, defeating the Baltimore Ravens in a lopsided 44-7 blowout at Wembley Stadium. The Ravens will look to rebound this weekend as the Pittsburgh Steelers will come to Baltimore in a showdown for the top spot in the AFC North division.
The Past, Present, and Future
The Pittsburgh Steelers began their 2017-18 campaign on a two-game winning streak with victories over the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings. The first of those two games was fairly close, as the Browns fell to the Steelers by a mere three points.
One week later, however, the Steelers flexed their muscles when the Minnesota Vikings came to Heinz Field and got run over by the men in black and yellow to the tune of a 26-9 final score.
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With a 2-0 record under their belt, the Steelers traveled to Chicago to take on a rebuilding Bears squad in what many expected to be a one-sided game in favor of Pittsburgh.
The Bears had different plans, though, and after keeping the game close for four quarters, they eventually defeated the Steelers on a thrilling walk-off touchdown run by Jordan Howard in overtime.
The Steelers’ schedule only intensifies from this point forward, as each of their next three opponents currently have winning records. After the Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens this week, they’ll head home to take on the surging Jacksonville Jaguars before flying out to Kansas City for a date with the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Biggest Weakness: Defensive Line
With veteran superstars lined up at so many different positions, sometimes it seems impossible on paper to overcome the Steelers’ wealth of talent and experience. But when the Chicago Bears unleashed Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen against the Steelers’ defensive line, Pittsburgh simply had no answer. The two halfbacks rushed for a combined 216 yards in the Bears’ victory over the Steelers, with Howard notching two touchdowns on the day.
Even when the Steelers convincingly defeated the Vikings, there was no shortage of success on the ground when Minnesota had the ball. The Vikings rushed for a cumulative 91 yards over the course of the game, and while that may not seem like much compared to the Bears’ performance, it still contributes to the Steelers’ 368 total yards given up on the ground this season. That stat ranks as 11th worst in the league, while the Steelers are also tied for 2nd most rushing touchdowns allowed on defense.
Biggest Strength: Offensive Line (Pass Protection)
This probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people considering we’re talking about a team that features the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, but the Steelers’ offensive line has been nothing short of elite so far this season. The unit has only given up six sacks on the year, which is mind-boggling considering twelve quarterbacks have been sacked nine or more times so far this season.
Any quarterback becomes a better thrower when he has more time in the pocket, especially someone as athletic as Ben Roethlisberger. If players like Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, and Maurkice Pouncey can’t be overrun in the trenches, then any hopes of beating the Steelers can be thrown out the window.
DB Cameron Sutton (Hamstring) – Injured Reserve, Eligible to Return Week 10
- The rookie cornerback hasn’t posted any NFL stats yet as he hopes to return to action later this season.
LB Bud Dupree (Shoulder) – Questionable
- The third-year linebacker out of Kentucky has tallied 9.5 sacks over the course of his NFL career, along with 41 tackles and 15 assisted tackles.
DT Stephon Tuitt (Bicep) – Questionable
- Tuitt has appeared in 45 games, of which he started 33, for the Steelers since being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2014. Over that span, he has recorded 11.5 sacks and 81 tackles.
The Bottom Line
The Baltimore Ravens’ game plan this week should primarily consist of three words. Establish the run. If the Ravens are persistent and don’t give up on the run too early, the Steelers’ shaky rushing defense could collapse and give way to a big performance for the Baltimore ground attack.
With run defense being the Steelers’ clear Achilles’ heel, there’s no reason to do anything but focus on the running game with the passing attack acting as a compliment. Defensively, rushing the passer will be more important than ever against the Steelers’ forceful offensive line.
This means John Harbaugh and company need to dial up creative blitzes to find ways around the Steelers’ guards and tackles in hopes of reaching Ben Roethlisberger early and often.