The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Baltimore Ravens Sunday on the road and they’re looking to extend their record to 5-3. Below are seven things that I believe the team will need to do in order to come away with their fifth win of the season.
Send numbers on obvious passing downs – 6 of the 8 sacks that the Steelers defense has registered so far this season have come on first downs so the unit must do a better job starting Sunday when it comes to pressuring Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on second and third down plays when 7 or more yards are needed. It would be nice to see defensive coordinator Keith Butler send 5 or more rushers in these instances as four-man rushes haven’t cut it so far. Flacco has been sacked 14 times (15 officially) so far this season.
See if Flacco can be elite – The Steelers run defense hasn’t played well in the team’s last two games but figure to get a boost Sunday with the return of defensive end Cameron Heyward to the starting lineup. Flacco has had his share of struggles so far this season when it comes to him throwing the football so the Steelers defense must make shutting down the Baltimore running game a priority and thus make Flacco win the game with his arm.
Corral the one-trick pony – Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace leads his team in deep pass receptions heading into Sunday but that’s not overly surprising. While Flacco has struggled so far this season when it comes to his deep pass attempts, the Steelers defense hasn’t done a good job of defending such throws so far this season even though they haven’t faced a lot of them. Chunk plays usually play a big role in every football game so the Steelers defensive backs can’t let Wallace, or any other Ravens wide receiver, beat them over the top for a huge field-flipping play in this game that figures to be a low-scoring affair.
Run left – The Ravens defense has allowed 5.52 yards per carry so far this season on runs that have come to the left side, their right. It would probably be wise for the Steelers offense to try to exploit this Sunday with running back Le’Veon Bell. In case you are curios, the Steelers offense has averaged 5.29 yards per carry so far this season on runs left of center.
Controlled physicality – As everyone already knows, Steelers-Ravens games are very physical and Sundays game in Baltimore shouldn’t be any different. With that said, the Steelers players must control their emotions and not take any stupid penalties. Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. will likely try to mix it up Sunday with Steelers safety Mike Mitchell during Sunday’s game and the Pittsburgh veteran needs to make sure to do his talking on the field with legal hits.
Protect Ben at all cost – While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start Sunday, he won’t be 100%. The Steelers offensive line must protect him at all cost as his mobility will likely be limited. The Ravens will likely send numbers after Roethlisberger early on in the game and the Steelers quarterback will need to get the football out quickly when and if that happens. Tackle Marcus Gilbert is back this week and that should help some.
Take calculated deep shots – The Ravens defense has done a good job of defending deep passes so far this season but with that said, they’ve yet to play against Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Sammie Coates. After being ineffective in the Steelers last two games due to a finger injury, Coates should be the healthiest he’s been in several weeks Sunday in Baltimore. Connecting deep at least twice during this game could wind up being huge for the Steelers offense.