Play Behind LOS Helps Turn Run Defense Around

Lost in the vast morass that has existed over Pittsburgh over the course of the past month or so now since they have last won a game is the fact that, outside of almost literally one play, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense did a very commendable job on Sunday in their loss against the Ravens, in which they allowed 13 points, three of which came off of a turnover.

But the aspect in particular that I would like to focus on right now is the fact that they were able to reverse the trend of getting run on at will, which was kind of an important flood gate to make sure gets closed, given the way in which they were getting gashed on the ground over the course of their two previous games leading into Sunday’s.

The Ravens mustered just 50 rushing yards on Sunday—which, yes, was still 14 more yards than the Steelers were able to put together. But Baltimore rushed the ball 29 times over the course of the game in order to pick up those 50 yards, and that worked out to a dismal 1.7 yards per carry.

To be fair, that total includes two kneel downs by Joe Flacco at the end of the game that produced a loss of a yard on each. Taking those out, they rushed for 52 yards on 27 attempts, which is a marginally more acceptable 1.9 yards per carry. But that also included a 14-yard scramble by Flacco on a designed pass play.

So if you want to look at the plays in which it was their express intention to run the ball and gain positive yardage, the Ravens had 26 such plays, and they managed to gain a mere 38 yards for their efforts, which gets us all the way down to 1.46 yards per carry.

Part of the reason the Steelers were so successful was because they found ways to gain penetration against the Ravens’ front line, and in doing so, they produced four running plays for the Ravens that went for a loss of yardage, a total that does not include Flacco’s kneel downs.

The big one, of course, was the tackle on Terrance West by Ryan Shazier that produced a fumble and resulted in a net loss of 11 yards. But James Harrison also had a tackle on West that resulted in a loss of five yards. Stephon Tuitt registered two tackles for a loss on his own.

Just seven of the Ravens’ designed runs even managed to pick up at least three yards on the ground against the Steelers’ front seven, and none of them even went for double digits. The longest gain on the ground by a Ravens runner, excluding Flacco’s scramble, was nine yards by West, who also had an eight-yard run.

Looking at the stat sheet, there are four prominent presences. Shazier is one of them, and Lawrence Timmons is another. But so were Jarvis Jones and Harrison. Those four players alone accounted for 17 of the 26 tackles.

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