The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fourth game of the 2018 regular season Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens in what figures to be another exciting AFC North game with quite a bit of physicality included in it. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with their first home win of the 2018 season Sunday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Don’t let it seam so easy – The Steelers defense has certainly had its fair share of problems so far this season and especially when it comes to defending the seams. Additionally, opposing tight ends have already caught 20 passes for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Steelers this season. 5 of those 20 tight receptions against the Steelers have come via deep throws and in the middle of the field at that. For what it’s worth, two of the Ravens tight ends, Mark Andrews and Maxx Williams, each have a deep reception entering Week 4. Should Ravens rookie tight end Hayden Hurst wind up making his NFL debut Sunday night, he’ll be another athletic player that will tough to defend against in the middle of the field
Ben needs to dig deeper – Like it or not, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been great so far this season when it comes to his deep pass attempts and especially ones to his wide receivers and outside the numbers. As referenced Friday night in a post of mine, Roethlisberger has really been bad so far this season when targeting wide receiver Antonio Brown more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage as he’s just 2-of-10 on such throws with several of those incompleted ones landing out if the field of play. While the Ravens defense has only allowed 5 deep pass attempts to be completed on the season, that unit has yet to face a deep threat offense as talented as the one the Steelers will field against them Sunday night. Roethlisberger must hit a few deep passes Sunday night for the Steelers to win.
Be aware of Action Jackson – The Steelers defense has already had a few issues this season when it comes to defending against mobile quarterbacks such as Tyrod Taylor and Patrick Mahomes. Heck, even the non-mobile Ryan Fitzpatrick gained 27 yards against the Steelers defense Monday night and he’s 35 years old. Against the Ravens Sunday night the Steelers defense might see backup Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson on the field a handful of times to get the football in hands and out in open space. Jackson can flip the field in a hurry with his athleticism, so they need to pay the first-round draft pick a lot of mind during the few plays he’s surely to be on the field for.
Use the James gang in the passing game – With Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster off to a hot start this season and combined with Brown likely to see his usual heavy attention Sunday night, Roethlisberger needs to be mindful to take the easy throws to running back James Conner, wide receiver James Washington and backup tight end Jesse James, whenever he’s in the game. Conner already has 15 receptions on the season for 139 yards while James is averaging 22.8 yards per reception on his 9 grabs from Roethlisberger. The other James, Washington, is primed to have a breakout game Sunday night as well and especially if he can get matched up on veteran Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr. These three James could easily combine to have over 100 yards receiving Sunday night against the Ravens if Roethlisberger doesn’t ignore the easy check downs and over the middle throws to these three players.
Avoid the penal system – The Steelers enter their Week 4 Sunday night home game against the Ravens as the league leaders in penalties with 44. 37 of those penalties were accepted for a combined 361 yards. If that’s not enough, those penalties resulted in 106 yards of nullified offense and 13 resulted in first downs for the opposing team. 3 offensive drives have also stalled because of penalties. The Steelers aren’t just getting penalties on offense and defense as their special teams units have garnered a fair share as well. By comparison, the Raves have only been penalized 27 times in total so far this season with 23 being accepted for 181 total yards. Penalties have cost the Ravens just 17 yards of offense.