New series we’ll do each Sunday morning before kickoff. A prediction of what will happen if the Pittsburgh Steelers win, if they lose, and my final score prediction. My outlook on this afternoon’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers Win If…
– They use an elongated run game. Talked about this throughout the week and probably will in every matchup against the Ravens. You can try to run into a wall for balance’s sake but I care a lot more about moving the ball, scoring points, and winning the game.
Hopefully Todd Haley loosens things up this time around with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, something he didn’t have last time that caused him to be more conservative.
Screen games, RPO, and three step drops to get the ball into playmaker’s hands (Bell, AB the obvious suspects) will be important. Can’t go into 3rd and long against this Ravens’ defense, let them go into their exotic sub-packages and be at their mercy.
– The run game is shut down. Don’t want to overlook this. While the Ravens are as pass happy as practically any team in the NFL, that run game is stronger than it was in the first meeting. And when the Steelers’ defense has their most success, they shut down team’s run games (Giants, Bills, second half Bengals). So that’s where it starts, as it always does.
– The defense leans on zone coverage. I know that’s very much a general, catch-all statement. But Joe Flacco leans on his checkdowns to backs and a heavy does of screens. Man coverage robs players of their vision on the football and allows a lot of YAC underneath.
So hoping for a strong dose of Cover 2 that will have a guy like Ryan Shazier underneath and able to rally on anything short with a two deep shell that can protect the Ravens’ vertical attack. But less man coverage, the better.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
– They can’t attack the middle of the field. And that is asking for Eli Rogers to step up with Ladarius Green out. There has to be that sort of threat to help open up Antonio Brown. Having AB is fantastic but force-feeding him 20 targets in likely contested coverage is going to end poorly at least once or twice.
Rogers had one of his best games against the Cincinnati Bengals and will have to keep growing up in a hurry.
– Pittsburgh plays clean. Baltimore is actually the more penalized team of the two but the Steelers aren’t that far behind (114 to 100). Can’t have the Steelers’ drives stall out against a tough Ravens’ defense that will present only a couple of really good scoring chances. We’ve seen these stories play out against lesser teams already.
– Control the emotion. Emotion is good, in fact, it’s vital for a moment like this, but it can’t go overboard. That isn’t just about penalties either like the Bengals’ self-implosion a week ago. It goes beyond that. Not playing assignment sound football, not doing your job as Keith Butler has preached all the team. That’s where being too emotional can get you. And that can’t happen.