It was just a week ago that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was praising his ‘big people’ for delivering a decisive victory over the Cleveland Browns, crediting the team’s offensive and defensive lines for dominating the line of scrimmage and controlling the action.
The offensive line kept Ben Roethlisberger protected and upright and opened up the way for James Conner and company to get to work on the ground, particularly in the key moments in the game. The defense put constant pressure on Baker Mayfield and prevented Kareem Hunt and the running game from getting started.
The Steelers’ big people may have been slightly less impressive against the Tennessee Titans, though the offensive line kept Roethlisberger clean throughout the game, not allowing a single sack. But even the players know it’s going to be another game for the trenches up next against the Baltimore Ravens.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward was asked during the week about some of his favorite Tomlinisms, and the one he believes is most applicable for this rivalry and the game coming up. “The standard is the standard, there’s more meat on the bone, it’s popcorn; there’s a countless amount of quotes you could go from”, he said. “There’s the next man up”.
“But I think the one that really sticks out is, it’s a big man week. I don’t know if he says that to y’all a lot, but he tells us, big men gotta run, and little men gotta hit. But we’re gonna follow our big people. And I feel like in this type of game, the physicality of the front line of both groups is gonna be very influential over who wins this game”.
It’s fair to say this is a ‘big man week’, for sure, when you are going up against a dual-threat quarterback like Lamar Jackson. Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, and Bud Dupree will be responsible for keeping him off-balance in the pocket—and in the pocket, cutting off the escape lanes that can be so deadly when he is the one doing the escaping.
On the flip side, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, and the rest of the offensive line will be contending with a formidable Ravens front that includes the newly-added pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, who had five sacks and two forced fumbles with the Vikings before coming over. And if that’s not enough, they still have Matt Judon, Calais Campbell, and a platoon of pass-rushers such as Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser.
Let’s be serious here. This is the Steelers and the Ravens. It’s always about the big people. And this year, both sides have a formidable group of big people. There will be some serious trench warfare going on in Baltimore.