As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’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 12 delayed rematch between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They Play Mistake-Free Football
Simple concept, same as it’s been against recent teams (Dallas, Cincinnati, Jacksonville) where the Steelers had an overwhelmingly better roster. So Pittsburgh has to do all the basic things to not give the game away. Protect the football (you know Baltimore’s defense will be aggressive), win in situational football (third down, red zone) and don’t be the more penalized team. The Steelers are at home, have the better roster, and have actually practiced. Don’t be sloppy and their talent should win out.
2. Backup RBs Pass Protect
As I alluded to above, the Ravens are going to be aggressive defensively. They already were coming into this game, blitzing more than any defense in football. Even more than Pittsburgh. Like the Steelers’ defense last year, Baltimore knows their D will have to make at least one splash play to pick up their depleted offense. DC Wink Martindale has a great scheme that creates a lot of chaos. Pittsburgh may respond how they did in the second half of their Week 8 matchup, running plenty of 01 personnel and empty sets to force the Ravens to play more “safe” defenses.
But when guys like Benny Snell and rookie Anthony McFarland are in the game, they’re going to have to follow James Conner’s footsteps to recognize and pickup the Ravens’ exotic and overwhelming/overload blitzes and bluffs.
3. Players Are Smart And In Control
Another basic one. Justifiably, Steelers’ players are upset about everything that’s happened over the past week. Baltimore’s recklessness screwed everything up. That anger can’t carry onto the field. It’s Steelers/Ravens so sure, there will be plenty of jawing and smack talk. Just don’t do anything after the whistle that’s going to cost your team. Walking out with the win is the best revenge possible.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. LBs Don’t Work Off Blocks, Front Seven Fails To Win 1v1
Picking up what I wrote about in my X Factor article that feels like a month ago. Spotlighted Vince Williams and Robert Spillane in particular as guys at the front of the line in stopping a Ravens’ rushing attack that’s compiled nearly 500 yards over the last two meetings. Have to work off blocks and not let backs free into the 2nd and 3rd levels, relying on DBs to make plays. More than ever, Baltimore needs their ground game to drive their offense.
2. Ravens New Faces Surprise Steelers
The one downside to the Ravens missing a large chunk of their roster is the unknown. The rookie you haven’t seen on tape. The next man up on the depth chart that’s hard to expect or gameplan for. That can throw players and coaches off because they don’t know how – or who – to gameplan for.
Obviously, Pittsburgh’s in a better spot not facing the Mark Andrews/Willie Snead/Matthew Judon’s of the world but there is an element here that works in Baltimore’s favor.
3. Baltimore’s Special Teams Pull Off A Trick
You can bank on the Ravens trying to gain any edge possible given all the disadvantages they have going into it. Just as Dallas did with their trick play on a punt return that set up a 73 yard return. Or the Bengals (for some reason) running a fake late in their loss. Or Jacksonville trying a surprise onside kick after their opening drive field goal. That’s what underdogs do. Goal is to steal a possession. Pittsburgh won’t have STs coordinator Danny Smith on the field tomorrow which is all the more incentive for the Ravens to get tricky. John Harbaugh was a STs coordinator before becoming a head coach so he has a good background of trickery and they’ve run fakes with guys like punter Sam Koch before.
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