The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their twelfth regular season game of 2021 at home on Sunday afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens, and they’ll likely enter that contest marked as an underdog of nearly five-points. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field to come away with their sixth win of 2021 season.
Jack Up Jackson – The Steelers defense will certainly have its hands fill on Sunday against the Ravens offense as mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson will be hard to defend. The Steelers defense has had some decent success in two previous games they have faced Jackson in and the third time on Sunday at Heinz Field might just need to be the unit’s best effort to date. The Steelers defense must make it a priority to legally hit Jackson as many times as possible on Sunday. Thar means using the mesh-charge off the edge and numerous blitzes. Jackson has a history of fumbling away the football so the Steelers defensive players must make ball hunting a priority when it comes to hitting him on Sunday. On top of that, Jackson has also already thrown 12 interceptions this season. He even had four interceptions in his last game. There’s no way the Steelers win on Sunday if they don’t get Jackson to give them the football at least twice.
Execute The Bad Execution – The tape from the Steelers loss last Sunday was very tough to watch. While the Steelers defense certainly made their fair share of mistakes in that road blowout loss, the team’s offense certainly did a great job of trying to keep up with their counterparts. The execution on offense was horrible last Sunday and that unit waisted a good 10 plays of the 59 ran because of that. Oh, and what about the illegal formation penalties? Those just can’t happen in any game. The Steelers offense already includes four rookies playing considerable playing time with two of those players being offensive linemen. That makes executing 100 percent of the time close to impossible. That said, a lot of the poor execution the Steelers offense had last Sunday came from non-rookies. That just can’t happen moving forward. This 2021 Steelers team needs much better offensive execution on Sunday if the unit wants to avoid scoring less than 20 points again.
Go Into The Deep End – The Steelers deep passing game has been pretty abysmal again this season and that definitely shows in the lack of chunk plays that unit has registered so far this season. Even so, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger must make a concerted effort to throw more than 15 yards down the field against the Ravens defense on Sunday. Why? Because the Ravens defense hasn’t been great at defending the deep ball so far this season. In fact, the Ravens defense has surrendered 34 deep pass attempts of more than 15 air yards and only three other teams have surrendered more. 8 of those 34 deep pass completions that the Ravens have given up have gone for touchdowns. Yes, even Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey has been beaten deep more than his fair share this season. Chunk plays win games and with the Steelers offense unlikely to get those explosive plays on the ground against the Ravens on Sunday, that unit sure better try early and often to get them through the air.
Stop The Dadgum Run – The Steelers defense must make Jackson beat them with his arm on Sunday. That means the Steelers defense probably needs to have a season-best game against the run on Sunday and that certainly won’t be an easy task at all. It sounds like the Steelers defense will have outside linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward on Sunday so there’s that. It also sounds like we might see two different defensive tackles play a lot on Sunday in the form of Carlos Davis and Montravius Adams. The Steelers inside linebacker duo of Devin Bush and Joe Schobert hasn’t been great this season and that needs to change on Sunday as well. If the Ravens offense can run downhill with ease out of heavy personnel early in Sunday’s game, it’s probably going to make for a long evening for the Steelers defense. That unit has an extra gap to contain on Sunday because of Jackson’s running ability. They better fill all nine gaps or else Jackson and the Raven running backs are sure to run for at least 200 yards. Stop the dadgum run or get dadgum beat again.
Leave Nothing In The Bag – The Steelers really need a win on Sunday against the Ravens as a loss will almost certainly decrease their chances of making the playoffs to just shy of impossible. It’s almost like the Steelers playoffs are now underway and especially when it comes to their remaining games against AFC teams, of which three are against teams in their own division. Trick plays, fake punts, onside kicks; you get the idea. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada must pull out all the stops on Sunday in order to ensure his unit scores at least 23 points. If the Ravens haven’t seen it on tape yet, it should be run against their defense on Sunday at Heinz Field.