As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) tonight’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa. My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. The real Chris Boswell stands up.
There’s a really good case to be made that Boswell, not Vince Williams as I wrote about, is the true X-Factor of this game. And a critical game for himself. Struggle four weeks in a row? That’s not going to show him the door but that could set the tone for the rest of the year. But if he recovers and kicks well, it can reset his path, not to mention a personal boost of confidence.
Steelers/Ravens always come down to the wire and this week is no exception. A game-ending field goal or looking back, a missed (or made) field goal that turned out to be the difference in a two or three point game.
2. Everyone on offense handles the Ravens’ blitz packages.
Baltimore is blitzing more this year than the last several and you see it on tape. All the different personnel groupings in their sub-packages, they’ve played 9 DBs this year just like Pittsburgh, and alignments within those groups. It’s a lot to handle, though getting back David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert is a huge help in defending that.
The blitz schemes Baltimore offers will be the toughest ones they’ve faced through the first month of the season. They gotta rise to the challenge. Ton of chaos they have to digest.
3. The penalties end.
37 penalties in the first three weeks. That’s the most in franchise history and most by any team since the 1998 Oakland Raiders. And again, can’t stress it enough, in close games like these, the team who racks up 10 penalties is probably the one who will lose. That’s before even considering the emotional factor in this game where the dial is turned all the way up. Easy recipe for dumb, unfocused penalties before or after the whistle.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Keith Butler sticks with his basic, Cover 3 approach.
Butler said he wanted to simplify things against Tampa Bay and it seemed like he went to a more Dick LeBeau-inspired Cover 3 approach. That’s not inherently terrible but against a Ravens offense who loves to run four verts and chuck it deep, that’s a C3 killer unless you’re pattern matching and carrying the seam threats.
Gotta find that happy medium between the simple approach and not getting out-schemed, as they were back in 2015 against Seattle, one of Butler’s worst called games of his career.
2. They lose on special teams. Badly.
And unfortunately, there’s a decent chance this happens. Not only because of the Steelers’ internal struggles but of how good Baltimore is with arguably the best kicker in Justin Tucker and punter in Sam Koch. That’ll maximize points offensively and flip field position in the punting game. Steelers specialists have to perform better than they have in any game so far. And a little bit of luck wouldn’t hurt either.
3. Stephon Tuitt goes quiet.
Tuitt’s box score doesn’t completely tell the story. He’s playing better than the lack of production indicates. But to potentially go through the first four weeks without a sack? Didn’t think it was possible. He’s gotta step up in a big way. Daniel McCullers is out here out-producing him. Credit to Big Dan but that’s gotta change.
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