During his Tuesday press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked a little bit about how his team will face a Baltimore Ravens defense this coming Sunday that will be slightly different from the one they faced a few weeks ago as not only will they have cornerback Jimmy Smith this time around, but a healthy linebacker in C.J. Mosley as well. What Tomlin didn’t mention on Tuesday, however, is that his own defense will have a few players on the field for this contest that weren’t available in the Week 4 meeting because of injuries.
In the Steelers Week 4 loss to the Ravens , it’s important to note that both safety Morgan Burnett and slot cornerback Mike Hilton both missed that game with groin and elbow injuries, respectively. As a result of Burnett and Hilton both sitting out that game, cornerback Cameron Sutton and safety Nat Berhe both had to play some on defense. Sutton, in fact, played 55 of 76 possible snaps against the Ravens while Berhe played 12.
4 of the 8 total third downs converted by the Ravens offense in that Week 4 game included both Sutton and Berhe being on the field at the same time. Additionally, the Ravens offense also gained 15 yards on a second down and 16 pass completion in the first half with those two Steelers defensive backups on the field. On Tuesday, Tomlin talked about how the failure of the team’s offense and defense to play well on possession downs in that Week 4 game against the Ravens played a big role in his team losing that contest.
“We didn’t do well enough on possession downs and some of them were very manageable for our offense and some them were long for their offense,” Tomlin explained. “So, you know, as I look back at it, particularly in the second half of play where the game really unfolded, we didn’t do enough on possession downs. We didn’t get off the field on defense and we didn’t sustain drives on offense. I thought that that was probably the singular most deciding factor in terms of how the game unfolded.”
Interesting enough, Steelers inside linebacker L.J. Fort saw some playing time late in that game against the Ravens after starter Vince Williams left with a hamstring injury. While the Ravens had the game in hand at the point when Fort was participating in it on defense, the linebacker played very well just the same in his limited snaps. That showing has resulted in Fort seeing some defensive playing time since then and that included the game this past Sunday against the Cleveland Browns when he was on the field for roughly 20 snaps. Burnett, by the way, was also on the field for every snap that Fort played.
“Those sub-package defenders don’t get enough credit,” Tomlin said. “They might not be classified as starters, but guys like Mike Hilton and Morgan Burnett and L.J. Fort are significant contributors to our effort.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we had all three of those sub-package defenders available to us last week and that’s probably why our third-down performance in particular looked the way it looked. We haven’t had a lot of games this year where all three of those guys were available to us.”
In closing, the Steelers dime package that they use Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore should be a much better version of the one they used in Week 4 as it should include Burnett, Hilton and Fort in it. Hopefully those three players can make a big difference on the defensive possession downs in that contest and better yet, maybe help produce a turnover or two.
“We’re not producing enough turnovers,” Tomlin said on Tuesday. “I think we’ve gotten nine in seven games.”