As we will do every Saturday to get you ready for the week’s game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. What will make or break the Pittsburgh Steelers as they square off against the Baltimore Ravens.
X Factor: Interior Offensive Line
The Ravens have a heck of a defensive line. Even with some injury this year, they possess two of the best interior run stuffers in the NFL. Brandon Williams, who I think most fans know, and Micheal Pierce, who most probably don’t. Add them up and you get somewhere around 660 pounds of beef.
Since Williams came back from injury in Week 7, only one opponent has averaged better than 3.4 yards per carry against Baltimore. Three times, they’ve been held to three yards or fewer. Point is, and you probably already know this, the Ravens’ run defense is really good.
Last year, in Week 16, the Steelers did control the line of scrimmage and Bell ran all over Baltimore to the tune of more than six yards a carry. In fact, we dedicated a video to it after the game. Go back and check it out if you have some time to kill (and laugh at my sorta shoddy audio).
And those guys can collapse the pocket as pass rushers too. Interior pressure, even if it doesn’t result in a sack, can be just as disruptive, forcing the QB to roll out into the edge rushers. Stresses the tackles because it changes the launch spot and the linemen are last to realize where their guy has scooted too.
Even without Jimmy Smith, the Ravens’ secondary is still tough. And their ability to disguise coverage and pressure is always a headache, even with how familiar Ben Roethlisberger is with this defense. You don’t want to be in third and long against this group. That means winning first down. That means dealing with the two dump trucks in the middle. Ramon Foster. Maurkice Pouncey. David DeCastro. Eyes on you.
As they go, so will the offense.