As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’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. They establish a perimeter run game.
It’ll be tough running on the Baltimore Ravens. Period. But if they’re going to do it, it’ll be easier to do it on the outside rather than running up the gut against their big, talented interior defensive line made up of Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. I know the Steelers primarily run the ball inside with their Power/Lead game but I’d try to get it out on the perimeter at least a couple times. A crack toss. Let James Conner get the edge and then turn downhill.
2. Lamar Jackson is contained.
Honestly, one of my biggest worries about the Ravens’ offense is Jackson, a man who may only see 10-15 snaps. But his usage for a unit dying for a spark has increased the last two weeks and Baltimore got him involved in the first matchup. Granted, that time, the Steelers were coming off a short week and hadn’t played Jackson before so you’d like to think they’re better prepared this time around. But I have a feeling Jackson is going to be used in some key situations – third and short and red zone/goal line.
3. 3rd down woes are conquered.
Something you can apply to every week but this matchup especially. The Steelers have seemed to turn things around on third down over the last three games but the Falcons and Bengals – two of the worst third down defenses – aren’t nearly the test that the 2nd ranked Ravens are. Obviously, possession downs were a major breakdown in Week Four. The Ravens nearly converted half of theirs while the Steelers finished a lowly 2/12.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. The front four doesn’t win (in both phases).
And they better. Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt have a chance to do some real damage this week. That left side of the line for Baltimore is a total mess. Their left tackle could be making his first ever start at the position while the left guard spot is totally up in the air. Those guys should come away with at least two sacks combined on Joe Flacco. If they don’t, and the rush is as invisible as it was before, it’ll be a massive disappointment.
2. Terrell Edmunds is asked to play in space.
Bouncing off what I wrote yesterday, where I made Edmunds the X Factor for this week. Edmunds was exposed playing more of a free safety role than he has all season long, beat by John Brown for a long catch and run and generally looking like a deer in the headlights. Keep him within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, let him lurk and bracket the slot receiver on third down – Keith Butler has done an excellent job of limiting Tyler Boyd and Jarvis Landry out of the slot the last two games – and play fast. Do that and he’ll have a positive impact this time around.
3. Baltimore’s special teams are just too good.
This one will be tough for the Steelers to control. When you talk about the Ravens, you have to include how talented their special teams unit is. They’ve had an issue with blocks, three against them this season already, but Justin Tucker and Sam Koch are elite. Tucker could end up in the Hall of Fame someday while Koch ranks 4th this season in average while also near the top in punts inside the 20. They can grab points when most teams can’t, say if Tucker hits a 57 yard field goal, while Koch makes up for a struggling offense by giving the opposition a long field to work with.
As Dave Bryan has pointed out, the Steelers have struggled with starting field position. They’re 28th in that category, according to Football Outsiders. Baltimore? Much better, coming in at 11th.
Season Prediction Record