There’s a lot of concern this week when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers running game with starting running back Le’Veon Bell currently questionable at best for the Saturday night AFC Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens with a right knee injury. In the grand scheme of things, however, it might not matter who starts at running back Saturday night for the Steelers as the Ravens defense has been very good this season at shutting down the opposing team’s running game.
In the two games that the Steelers have already played against the Ravens this season, they’re running backs combined to rush for just 115 yards on 35 carries (3.29 YPA). Bell played in both of those games and was responsible for 79 yards on 21 carries (3.76 YPA).
For the season, the Ravens only allowed an average of 88.3 yards rushing per game while only allowing an average of 3.6 yards per carry. To give you even more perspective as to how good the Ravens run defense has been this season, they’ve only allowed 106 runs of five yards or more in 2014 and only the Detroit Lions allowed fewer.
To make matters worse for the Steelers running game this week, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will return from his four game suspension for or a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
If the Steelers are going to beat the Ravens Saturday night, they’ll likely need to lean heavily on the arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger once again. In the Steelers last meeting against the Ravens, a 43-23 win at Heinz Field in early November, Roethlisberger was 25-of-37 for 340 yards with six touchdown passes. In addition, the Ravens will likely play three defensive backs Saturday night that weren’t even on their roster the last time they faced the Steelers.
Where Bell will be missed the most Saturday night against the Ravens, should he wind up being inactive, is in the passing game as not only is a he threat out of the backfield as a receiver, he’s also excellent in pass protection.