The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fifth regular season game of 2019 at home Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field and against the Baltimore Ravens with a lot on the line. Below are seven key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with their second win of 2019 against the Ravens.
Mark-ed men – The Ravens offense is designed to mainly be run through two Marks, running back Mark Ingram and tight end Mark Andrews. Ingram is a power runner and roughly half of his first down runs so far this season have been successful ones with three of the 36 going for more than 15 yards. Ingram also has 13 second down rushes this season and 12 have been successful. As for Andrews, he is the Ravens leading receiver entering Week 5 and 16 of his 23 receptions have come from the slot. The Steelers have had problems covering targeted slot players this season, so they better have a plan in place for Andrews and especially on third downs.
Skura factor – Ravens starting center Matt Skura is questionable for Sunday with a knee injury that he sustained this week in practice. If he plays, he’s not going to be 100 percent. If he doesn’t play, the Ravens are going to have a very inexperienced center playing in his place. Regardless, the Steelers should have success in the A-gaps on Sunday and especially defensive tackle Javon Hargrave as he’s sure to play a lot of snaps with the Ravens offense liking to run the football quite a bit while using heavy personnel groups. Skura’s knee injury is a small equalizer that the Steelers defensive line must exploit on Sunday.
Open the Mason jar some – The Steelers probably aren’t going to be able to run much, if any, Wildcat on Sunday against the Ravens defense. Additionally, the Ravens defense would be wise to dare quarterback Mason Rudolph to push the ball down the field more especially between the numbers. At some point Rudolph will need to show that he can throw between the 7- and 15-yard distances with success and Sunday might be the perfect opportunity to do just that. The Ravens defense enters Sunday having allowed a high percentage of deep passes to me be completed against them so at least three or more shots down the field should be taken. Steelers wide receiver James Washington also figures to have a tasty matchup on Sunday against Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr and so Rudolph should be able to target his former college teammate a few times.
Yacety YAC – Nothing makes the job of an experienced quarterback easier than receivers running for a lot of extra yards after making a catch. Right now, the Steelers need to have their playmakers make plays and especially if the passing game remains dink and dunk. we saw wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster provide a home run YAC touchdown a few weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers and Sunday against the Ravens the offense will need one or two long plays created after making a catch not far from the line of scrimmage.
No action for Jackson – Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is perhaps the most mobile signal-caller in the NFL currently and it’s surprising that he’s only had one run of at least 20 yards so far this season. The Steelers defense must contain Jackson on his drop backs and thus not let him kill then with chunk plays with his feet or third and long scramble conversions. While it might come at the expense of not getting sacks, forcing Jackson to stay in the pocket and throw could result in the second-year quarterback making a mistake or two. Tackling Jackson out in space will be a chore for the Steelers defense on Sunday and one they must accomplish for 60 minutes.
No downtown for cousin Hollywood Brown – Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown is the cousin of former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and while undersized, he’s a very explosive player. Of his 18 catches so far this season, four have gone for more than 20 yards and two of those were touchdowns. New Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick witnessed those two scores by Brown back in week 1 and as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Brown is sure to have a handful of catches on Sunday and keeping each one under 20 yards is crucial.
Happy returns – Field position will be key Sunday for the Steelers offense so it’s crucial the team gets a big punt or kickoff return or two during the contest. Maybe it’s time to let rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson handle both duties to see if he can break one. The Steelers longest kickoff return this season is 26 yards while their longest punt return is 11 yards. This Ravens have the best punter and kicker in the NFL so if the opportunities to run one back on Sunday will likely be few so the Steelers need to take advantage of the ones they can field.