The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their seventh regular season game of 2020 Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens as they look to notch their seventh consecutive win. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with a huge road win against the Ravens and move to 7-0 on the season.
Stop Another Case Of The Runs – Who is the best running team in the NFL right now? Obviously, it’s the Ravens and less shocking is the fact that quarterback Lamar Jackson leads the team in ground yards entering Week 8 with 346 on 50 attempts. It’s also worth mentioning that six of those Jackson attempts were kneel downs for minus 6 yards. The Steelers know all about game planning for a mobile and super athletic Jackson as they had to do it last season ahead of the Week 5 meeting between the two teams. Even so, Jackson still rushed for 70 yards in that game on 14 carries. However, the fact that Jackson didn’t score with his legs in that game and that his longest run was 9 yards made it a highly successful day for the Steelers defense and one they must duplicate or better on Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens other top rusher, running back Mark Ingram, isn’t likely to play on Sunday against the Steelers because of an ankle injury. Instead, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins will likely share carries with fellow running back Gus Edwards on Sunday and those two are nowhere near the equal of the running back the Steelers defense effectively shut down last Sunday, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers must make Jackson put the football in the air at least 25 times if they want to win on Sunday. To make that happen, their defense will need to stymie the NFL’s best rushing attack entering Week 8.
Dig Deep, Ben – The Ravens defense will likely blitz a lot on Sunday in Baltimore as they lead the league in percentage of doing just that entering Week 8. when they blitz, the Ravens defense will likely play press man across with their exceptionally good cornerbacks that include Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. These situations will make the Ravens defense ripe to be beat deep by any one of the Steelers talented wide receivers. While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been overly great with his ultra-deep passes so far this season, he has his a few of them to wide receivers Chase Claypool and James Washington. The Steelers will likely need a good five or six explosive plays at a minimum on offense Sunday to beat the Ravens and that means Roethlisberger will need to connect deep for at least three throws in this Sunday road game.
Limit The Purple M&Ms – As an entire group, the Ravens skill position eligibles aren’t great. That said, it is top heavy with talent in the form of wide receiver Marquis Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. So far this season, Jackson has completed 102 passes for 1,135 yards and 10 touchdowns and Brown and Andrews are responsible for catching 46 of those for 619 yards and six touchdowns. As you can imagine, Brown and Andrews are Jacksons favorite targets on third downs as well as the two have combined to catch 15 of the 29 total completed passes so far this season. In total, The Ravens have 15 explosive pass plays on the season with Browns being responsible for seven of them and Andrews on the receiving end of four. The Raven aren’t likely to have the other Mark on Sunday in Ingram, so they need to make sure the other two Ms are kept in check throughout the game. Jackson must be forced to beat the Steelers by throwing to people other than Brown and Andrews.
Full Motion – Running on the Ravens defense Sunday in Baltimore won’t be easy. In fact, opposing running backs have managed just a 38.9% run success rate so far this season against the Ravens defense with just 10 total carries going for 10 yards or longer. The Steelers have increased their use of pre snap motion this season and with some nice success and they’ll really want to try to use it heavily again on Sunday against the Ravens defense in an effort to get running back James Conner some running room. The Ravens defense must be stretched on Sunday and the Steelers are most likely to have run play success to their right side. Pulling guard Matt Feiler a few times left to right and running some pin and pulls to the right with center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro is highly advisable. If the Steelers offense cannot establish some semblance of run success on Sunday, then Roethlisberger will need to throw more than the team probably would like to see throw. Motion might just be the key to having some run success against the Ravens run defense.
19 Or Bust – Since John Harbaugh became the Ravens head coach in 2008, Baltimore is 7-5 against the Steelers at home. Inside of that record, the Ravens are 7-1 against the Steelers at home when they have scored 20 or more points in a game. The Ravens are also 65-11 all-time in regular season games at home under Harbaugh when they score 20 or more points. The Ravens are coming off their bye week and their defense is playing well once again this season. In short, for the Steelers to beat the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore, they will likely need to keep their opponent under 20 points scored. When the Ravens have scored 23 or points at home during a regular season game, they are 54-8 all-time. The Ravens are also 7-1 all-time at home under Harbaugh coming off their bye week when they score 20 or more points in a game.