The Pittsburgh Steelers have seemed to do as good a job against Lamar Jackson as any team in football. Just don’t tell that to Keith Butler. Talking to the media Tuesday, Butler said they could do much better against Jackson and the Ravens’ offense.
“No, we don’t have [Lamar Jackson]’s number,” Butler told reporters via a team transcript. “Dadgum, you kidding? He is a great football player. He was MVP last year. I don’t think anybody has his number. We were fortunate to get out of that game. We gave up 450 yards. Our offense did a good job of scoring there at the end, and we had to stop them. We stopped them when we had to, but we don’t have his number by any means.”
A humble (and given the “Dadgum,” very southern) answers from the Steelers’ defensive coordinator. But give him and the defense a little credit. Jackson has looked mortal against this group. As we pointed out following the team’s victory over Baltimore earlier in the season, Jackson’s stats against the Steelers sure don’t look MVP caliber.
Lamar Jackson in two games against the Steelers.
32/56 (57.1%) 369 yards (6.6 YPA) 4 TDs, 5 INTs.
No one's done a better job against Jackson than Pittsburgh.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 1, 2020
That also includes nine total sacks and four forced fumbles.
But Butler’s point is well-taken. Even though Jackson has been limited, the Ravens’ offense hasn’t. Baltimore won Jackson’s lone start against the Steelers last season, a 26-23 overtime victory. Pittsburgh got their revenge this year but allowed 265 yards on the ground in the process, relying on a final-play, end zone breakup to secure victory. For Butler, that means there’s a long ways to go before being happy about his team’s overall performance.
The Ravens are a similar level of dissatisfied. They’ve lost three out of their last four, the offense hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a month, and Jackson’s play has dropped off. Over his past four games, he’s thrown just five touchdowns, four interceptions, and rushed for a relatively pedestrian 4.3 YPC with a lone touchdown. Many in the media, and even Jackson himself, have wondered if the Ravens’ offense has gotten too predictable.
A strong performance from Jackson will be needed now more than ever. Baltimore is currently on the outside-looking-in for the AFC playoff picture. Losing to Pittsburgh Sunday would eliminate their small hopes of winning the AFC North, not to mention shrinking their general playoff aspirations. Their offense will be without LT Ronnie Stanley, whose season ended in the first game against Pittsburgh, their top two RBs in JK Dobbins and Mark Ingram, and perhaps a couple more players as positive COVID tests spike.
While the Ravens are done, they’re certainly not out. Jackson’s talent hasn’t magically gone away. You don’t win NFL MVP without being one of the game’s best players. If the Steelers fail to play a full, 60 minute game against him, they and the rest of the football world will be reminded of that fact Thursday.