As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) tonight’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 7 battle of undefeateds versus the Tennessee Titans.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Pass Rush Maintains Rush Lane Integrity
Simply spying a quarterback as otherworldly talented as Lamar Jackson isn’t good enough. Containing him is a full team job. You may have to sacrifice pressure and getting after the quarterback to keep him in the pocket. Maybe TJ Watt or Bud Dupree don’t speed rush as often or in certain situations (like third down) so they don’t get shoved upfield and lose contain. It’s fewer two-way gos as a pass rusher, making sure they control a gap, especially on four man rushes where they’re naturally outnumbered. Rushing smart is equally as important as anything else the front four can do.
2. Receivers Make Tough Catches
Ravens’ corners won’t make life easy on the Steelers’ receivers. They’re going to be physical at the line and the catch point. Reminds me of some of the Jaguars’ secondaries Pittsburgh faced three or four years ago. Young guys like Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are going to have to step up and win some tight, contested situations. Not much will come easy.
3. Special Teams Is Competitive
Hidden aspect of football could determine this one. Not overtly but looking back, it might. Ravens have two of football’s top specialists in kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch. Tucker feels automatic from basically anything inside 60, especially knowing this game is in Baltimore and not tricky Heinz Field. Chris Boswell has been excellent but Jordan Berry will have to pick up where he left off last week. Field position battle and a team squeaking out a long field goal before the half (or end of game) could prove the difference.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Plan C At ILB (Whatever That Is) Fails
Steelers survived for one week without Devin Bush. Facing a tougher challenge this week without backup Ulysees Gilbert III, ruled out with a back injury. What is the team’s plan in their dime defense? Is it Marcus Allen? Sean Davis? Robert Spillane becomes the three-down guy? Whoever is in their will be tested by TE Mark Andrews and rookie back JK Dobbins. And of course, partial responsibility to keeping Lamar Jackson in the pocket. Depth only gets you so far and the Steelers are in a tough spot against an equally tough opponent. And sure, the Ravens are a heavy personnel team but in 3rd and 5+, end of half/end of game situations, the most crucial situational football, dime is the likely grouping (though Keith Butler could just decide to stay in nickel all game).
2. Ravens Win The Turnover Battle
Steelers aren’t going to get lucky two weeks running if they lose the turnover battle as they did last week, going -3 against Tennessee but building a big enough of an early lead to hang on by the narrowest margins. Baltimore is among the best in business in taking the ball away, 11 times in six games, and they’re not prone to giving the ball away either. The Ravens’ pressure packages are among the most aggressive, chaotic, and multiple thanks to DC Wink Martindale and they figure to give the Steelers – even as a veteran team – plenty of fits. That could lead to turnovers. Watch out for Calais Campbell making a big play.
3. Zone Coverage Dooms Them
No doubt this team will play plenty of zone against one of the league’s most mobile quarterbacks. That keeps vision on the ball when Jackson scrambles or moves the pocket. Downside to that is the Steelers are built for and a much better team to play man coverage. That’s why both their starting safeties are first round picks and their outside corners were paid a bunch of money in free agency. Weren’t brought in to tackle the catch. But playing the Ravens, just like Deshaun Watson (in the first half, anyway) present a problem.
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