The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will outrush the Ravens on Thursday.
Explanation: In their first meeting this season, the Ravens ran for over 250 yards, the most the Steelers had allowed since 1993, while Pittsburgh was held to under 100 yards for the first time on the season. However, several key variables are different for the next game that plays in Pittsburgh’s favor.
There is so much in the script that has been flipped that the reversal of the outcome feels inevitable. The Steelers lost nose tackle Tyson Alualu on the first drive of that game and they had to adjust on the fly. Nickel corner Mike Hilton was out as well, another valuable run defender. They were getting their first look at J.K. Dobbins.
The next time they play, Dobbins won’t even be there. He and Mark Ingram are both on the Reserve/Covid-19 List. On top of that, so is nose tackle Brandon Williams, the core of their run defense. End Calais Campbell, who has missed the past two games, may be unavailable as well. He has not practiced even in a limited capacity since his injury.
Add on top of that the active work that the Steelers are putting into fixing the things in their running game that had gone out of whack, and a change of venues on top of that—now in Pittsburgh—and it’s very reasonable to believe that the Steelers will outrush the Ravens in this one.
While they are not getting Ronnie Stanley back, the Ravens are getting a starting offensive lineman back in Tyre Phillips. And as far as the Ravens’ backfield is concerned, Gus Edwards has put 100-plus yards on him as well. Dismissing the threat of Lamar Jackson, who has more pressure on him now than at any other point in his career, would be a fool’s errand.
Then we have to consider the simple fact that the Steelers are decidedly a pass-first team, which plays to their strengths. When you have JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron, and Chase Claypool, you want to put the ball in the air.
The 01 personnel is what won them the game last time. Make them put Anthony Levine or the newly-signed and thoroughly washed up 37-year-old Tramon Williams on the field and have them matched up against James Washington. Have L.J. Fort covering Ebron. That’s how you win. The Ravens need to run to win, so they will run. The Steelers don’t.