Even though they managed to win the game, the last (and so far only) time Lamar Jackson faced the Pittsburgh Steelers was the worst of his career as a passer. He threw a career-high three interceptions in that game and took a career-high five sacks. He averaged just 5.75 yards per attempt, and 1.64 adjusted yards per attempt (which is extremely low).
Now he’s playing at home against the Steelers for the first time ever. And he knows that their defensive front poses a major problem. He’s not about to take them lightly after what they did to him in their first meeting in week five of the 2019 season, which took an overtime forced fumble to decide, against two Steelers backup quarterbacks.
“Their defensive line is great. Their front four, those guys get off the ball, they get after the quarterback. A lot of strip-sacks”, he told reporters. “T.J. [Watt] and Bud [Dupree], they do a great job of getting to the quarterback, harassing the run game. I feel like our offensive line is going to be ready, and we’re just going to go out there and play football”.
Of course, that doesn’t even touch on Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, two of the great defensive tackles in the league. Tuitt in particular has been getting into the backfield at a crazy rate this year, and it’s reasonable to assume that he can contend with Bradley Bozeman.
The Ravens were always feeling frustrated after barely scraping by the Philadelphia Eagles in the game heading into their bye week. The Eagles came within a failed two-point conversion of tying the game at 30-30 in the late stages, and the passing game in particular struggled.
Even though they were off last week, Jackson said that he and Mark Andrews and other passing targets spent that time off working at the facility throwing, working on the passing game. This is still a run-first team, but they know that there will come times that they need to throw—like when they threw for 70 yards in a loss to the Chiefs.
Kansas City is one of only four teams that have actually beaten Jackson in his career, the others being the Cleveland Browns, and in the postseason, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs have beaten him three times. The Steelers want to be the fifth team to whom he has lost.
And considering the fact that they haven’t lost a football game yet, and have two wins against five-win teams so far this season, I don’t think that is a particularly unreasonable goal. But it will be up to that front four in particular in keeping the reigning league MVP uncomfortable in the pocket and inducing him into errors.