Sunday night at Heinz Field the Pittsburgh Steelers defense will get a second shot at shutting down the Baltimore Ravens outside zone scheme that blistered them to the tune of 157 yards back in Week 2.
While it certainly wont be an easy task, the Steelers run defense has improved over the course of the last seven quarters that they’ve played.
After having problems stopping the run in the first quarter in the game against the Houston Texans, the Steelers defense has only allowed opposing running backs to gain 67 yards on 22 carries for a 3.05 average.
Admittedly, the Indianapolis Colts really never tried to establish the run against the Steelers this past Sunday and that was a result of them being behind most of the game. Unless the Steelers offense jumps on the Ravens early like they did against Colts, you can bet that they will be forced to defend the run all night.
The Steelers defense figures to get starting nose tackle Steve McLendon back this week and that could go a long way in helping shutting down the Ravens running game this time around.
While Ravens running backs Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett combined to rush for 152 yards on 30 carries back in Week 2 against the Steelers, they only managed to get 52 yards on the 14 carries that McLendon was on the field for. If you remember, McLendon left that game in the second half with a shoulder injury.
Conversely, when Cam Thomas played nose tackle in the first meeting against the Ravens, Pierce and Forsett combined to rush for 101 yards on 13 carries.
McLendon plays the outside zone run well and if the Steelers defense is able to prevent the Ravens from putting together long drives against them Sunday night, there’s no reason to think that Thomas will have to log a ton of snaps at nose tackle in the base 3-4.