As we have been for several years now, we’ll break down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opponent each week, telling you what to expect from a scheme and individual standpoint. Like last year, Josh Carney and I will cover the opposing team’s offense. I will focus on scheme, Josh on the players.
Today, we’re revisiting the Baltimore Ravens’ offense (assuming the game gets played which…you know, isn’t looking too hot right about now).
Alex’s Scheme Report
Ravens’ Run Scheme
Meat and potatoes of this offense. No surprise there. Despite their offensive struggles over the last month, they still boast football’s #1 run game. 160.5 yards per game and this group went for 265 against the Steelers in their first matchup. They’re wounded without JK Dobbins and Mark Ingram but this is still a potent group. Averaging 4.9 per carry, top five in the league.
Leading rusher Lamar Jackson is still there. He has 103 carries and 5.6 yards per carry this season. Gus Edwards will play tonight too and he’s second on the team with 85 carries. Ingram had taken a big backseat in this offense, ceding carries and playing time to Edwards and the rookie Dobbins. They are, however, without stellar blocking TE Nick Boyle, lost for the year due to injury a couple weeks ago.
Explosive run group, which is no surprise considering their top flight rushing outputs. Tied for the fourth most runs of 10+ (41) and #1 in football in 20+ rushes (15). They can chunk you. Their run game is nearly as explosive as their pass game.
Not many changes with their run game. FB Patrick Ricard is an underrated player and incredibly physical lead blocker. They’ll run behind him, especially in short-yardage moments. He’s the guy who took out Tyson Alualu’s knee in the first meeting. Him and Boyle are two of the best cut blockers in the NFL.
And of course they’ll get the ball on the perimeter. Bash concept that most teams don’t run. RB runs away from power. QB has the option to keep the ball behind two pullers or he can hand it to the back if the defense flows away.
Some other offensive stats. Group has certainly taken a step back. First in scoring last year to 12th this season at just 26.8 points per game. Suffered even more recently, held to 24 or fewer points in four straight games. Their third down offense is still impressive, staying on schedule because of their run game will certainly help, ranked 9th at 45.5%. But they’ve had issues getting over the goal line with the 21st ranked red zone offense at 58.8%.
Ravens’ Pass Scheme
I had a bunch of stats on Lamar Jackson but that seems irrelevant now that he’s reportedly tested for COVID. Here’s what I wrote on him, anyway. Jackson’s numbers though are down across the board. Some examples.
2019 completion percentage: 66.1%
2020 completion percentage: 63.4%
2019 YPA: 7.8
2020 YPA: 7.1
2019 INTs: 6
2020 INTs: 6
For the year, he’s thrown 15 touchdowns to six interceptions. Their 25th in completion percentage, tied 20th in YPA, and 31st in pass yards per game.
Assuming he doesn’t play whenever the game gets played, Robert Griffin III will be the team’s starter. In Week 17 against the Steelers last year, RG3 went 11/21 for 96 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick in the rainy finale. He brings a similar athletic skillset to Jackson though obviously isn’t on the same level as a runner. Still, he has a live arm and was Lamar Jackson before there was Lamar Jackson.
His top two weapons remain the same. TE Mark Andrews and WR Hollywood Brown. Andrews is the team leader in every major category. 38 receptions on 60 targets, 454 yards, and six touchdowns. Brown got off to a hot start but has quieted since. Six catches over his last four games as the Ravens are struggling to hit the deep ball.
One guy who has stepped up? Willie Snead. Perennial thorn in the Steelers’ side. Over the last four games, he’s caught 17 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Had a big game against Pittsburgh (5/106) so expect to hear his name plenty later tonight.
Overall, this group is having trouble creating big plays in the pass game. 25 completions of 20+ yards through ten games. That’s tied for 25th. And they have just one completion of 40+ yards, dead last in football. And that came in Week One, a 47 yard completion to Brown.
Conceptually, they’re leaning on Andrews as much as over. Love align him in the slot in 3×1 and bend him on an over route across the field to the X receiver side. Good way to flood zone or out-leverage man coverage.
Also like to get Andrews on corner routes to the back pylon, too. Have to defend the whole route tree with him.
Of course, you get some playaction rollouts too, especially near the goal line. Try to quickly gain leverage and hit a back or someone in the flat for an easy score.
Josh’s Individual Report
(Ed Note: This was written before the game was pushed back to Sunday…and then possibly moved again).
It’s Baltimore Ravens week, Pittsburgh Steelers fans, and it welcomes in the color rush jerseys for the Steelers this week.
Throw out what you know about the Ravens right now over the last three weeks. Records, trends, recent play…it all doesn’t matter in this matchup.
Baltimore comes into this game fresh off of an overtime heartbreaker against the Tennessee Titans at home, sending the Ravens well on their way to a two-game losing streak.
The Ravens’ offense has taken a significant step backwards, largely due to a drop in play up front without standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and the lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver. Lamar Jackson has had to take some chances that he didn’t have to last season, and the run game really hasn’t put together a good game since the loss to Pittsburgh at home.
Make no mistake though: this offense is very talented and can get rolling downhill on a hurry against teams if they get the opportunity to.
That said, I think this is slowly starting to turn into an offense that is pass first due to the success Jackson his having with his arm as of late.
You’ll see a lot of play-action and RPOs from Jackson and the Ravens, where Jackson will look for his guys in Willie Snead IV, Hollywood Brown, Devin Duvernay, Mark Andrews and Dez Bryant.
Snead IV really carved up the Steelers over the middle the last time these two teams met. He’s sneaky good on possession downs and has really thrived with Jackson since the first game with the Steelers. Jackson seems to have a lot of trust in him at the moment and will fire it in there to him in tight coverage.
Again, RPO, stress the defense with the threat of the run, and open up throwing lanes over the middle for guys to exploit.
Snead IV really worries me come Thursday night.
Look at the way the Indianapolis Colts’ front seven is stressed here on the RPO, opening up a throwing lane to Brown on the slant to pickup the first down.
These types of plays – especially to guys with speed like Brown – are dangerous. They can be quick hitters that go to the house, or they can be possession throws that pick up small chunks of yardage and quickly and quietly move the chains.
I know Nick Boyle was lost for the year, but plug and play at tight end for the Ravens. Baltimore loves to push the tight ends up the seam and stress the linebackers and safeties.
This is just a tremendous throw by Jackson, taking advantage of the defender having the back of his helmet showing. Jackson earholes him for the splash play to Boyle up the seam.
Andrews is far and away Jackson’s No. 1 target. He’s the security blanket, the field stretcher, the go-to guy in the red zone, you name it.
Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens work Andrews up the field on Sunday against Robert Spillane and Vince Williams. Andrews has to carry the load in the receiving game for this offense to remain balanced like it needs to be.
Aside from Jackson and his weapons, the run game is up in the air with Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins on the COVID-19 list on a short week. That would mean Gus Edwards – he of good success against the Steelers in the past – would carry the load on the ground, with someone like second-year back Justice Hill serving as the change of pace guy for the Ravens.
Up front, the offensive line has gone through some changes since the first meeting between these two teams. With Stanley out for the year, Baltimore moved All-Pro caliber right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to left tackle, and plugged in veteran DJ Fluker in at right tackle.
Here’s how I expect the Ravens to line up left to right on Thursday night:
LT – Orlando Brown Jr.
LG — Bradley Bozeman
C — Patrick Mekari
RG — Ben Powers
RT – DJ Fluker
I really liked Powers coming out of Oklahoma. He’s been solid in the run game when on the field, but he’s really struggled with athletic guys in pass protection. Meet Stephon Tuitt this week, Ben.
This line is built to succeed working forward in the run game, but it’s been mostly rough as of late, unless it’s Jackson scrambling around end.
On special teams, Justin Tucker and Sam Koch remain the best pair of specialists in football. There’s not much more to say. Big legs, accuracy, and more.
Duvernay and fellow rookie James Proche II are the kick returners for Baltimore. One guy to watch on special teams is Hill, who had a whale of a game as a gunner against the Titans.