It should probably go without saying that a lot has changed since the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers met up with the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, we took the time to outline many, many of the ways that this team has changed since that game about half a season ago, which you can take the time to revisit before the game.
But really, perhaps the biggest difference—other than the location of course—may well be the quarterback position for the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger is a far better player than he showed to be in that game. That was, of course the game in which he returned from having a procedure done to repair the meniscus in his knee, and he played as he usually does coming off an injury.
In fact, I even did a film study looking at several of his poor throws, many of which were more than deserving of being intercepted. He somehow managed to throw just one interception in that game, and it came off of a batted pass at the line of scrimmage that was popped up into the air and gathered by the defensive lineman who batted it down in the first place.
The Ravens let slide a number of opportunities for splash plays in that one that they may not pass up a second time around, so not only do I anticipate that Roethlisberger will play much better at home in a much healthier position, he also probably has to.
For as much as the Steelers have had success running the ball over the course of the past five weeks, during which they have greatly committed to using extra tight ends, extra linemen, and fullbacks, the simple reality is that they are unlikely to find a great deal more success on the ground against the Ravens’ front seven than they did the last time.
Pittsburgh ran a conservative game plan in that contest in order to accommodate Roethlisberger in his first game back from a knee operation, but this time—especially if Jimmy Smith is going to be sidelined—you can probably expect to see a bigger presence through the air.
And we will also hopefully have to do less in-game troubleshooting as well, as, if you will recall, the Steelers had two injuries on the offensive side of the ball mid-game that had an impact on their game plan as well.
Center Maurkice Pouncey suffered an injury in the first half, forcing him to miss the majority of the game, and B.J. Finney’s work off the bench against Brandon Williams was not up to par. The foot injury that Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered on a deep throw—in the first game after he was listed as a ‘starter’—forced them to try to resurrect Sammie Coates, who ended up dropping a deep touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
After that game, the Steelers began making greater use of Cobi Hamilton, who has been a real chain-mover for the offense. He has only 13 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown, but eight of them have come on third or fourth down and converted.