The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off an opening day victory over the division rival Cleveland Browns, but after the way the second half transpired, it’s clear to say that everything is not rosy. In the first half, the offense put up 27 points, while the defense held the Browns to three.
But the second half was another matter, with the defense relinquishing the 24-point lead before the offense finally got on the scoreboard in the second half with a game-winning field goal as time expired. Here are a few things to look for tonight against the Baltimore Ravens on the defensive side of the ball.
The biggest issue the Steelers will face on defense against the Ravens will be combating their copycat attack after watching the Browns run successfully against Pittsburgh in the second half using the hurry up in a zone blocking scheme.
Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is well-versed in this offensive philosophy and there’s no reason to think Baltimore won’t cram it down Dick LeBeau’s throat until his unit proves it can stop it.
Considering the state of their running game, however, and the fact that Joe Flacco continuously aired it out in the opener, expect the Steelers to run a lot more nickel than they did on Sunday. That means more William Gay, who was the team’s best defender against the Browns.
Defensive end Brett Keisel logged a lot of snaps, and even saw a small handful on the left side, although on a short week, he may be given a bit more of a breather.
Rookie Stephon Tuitt could be expected to take on more snaps this week as a result. Cameron Heyward, of course, will continue to stay on the field for most of the game.
Outside of the sacks that each registered, both Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds had a fairly quiet afternoon against the Browns. Jones especially will have a hard time changing that against Eugene Monroe at left tackle, just days after battling with Joe Thomas. His sack, of course, did not come against Thomas, but rather a tight end.
The inside linebacker position was a major point of weakness for the Steelers on Sunday, which is troubling considering the two spots are manned by first-round picks. Lawrence Timmons is still adjusting to being the signal-caller, while Ryan Shazier is just adjusting to playing.
Timmons had one of his worst games in recent memory, frequently overrunning gaps, and also being victimized early on a go route by a tight end. A serious bounce-back game is in order to restore some faith in this unit.
As the game progressed, the Steelers started mixing up how they used Troy Polamalu in relation to Mike Mitchell.
Polamalu played in the box frequently throughout the game, but toward the end, he spent a lot of time dropped deep, while Mitchell got around to the line more often. Expect the pair to continue to feel each other out as the defense figures out the best way to utilize their talents.