The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their sixteenth game of the 2022 regular season Sunday night and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. They’ll enter that contest listed as a slight underdog as well. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do on the road Sunday night to come away with their eighth win of the 2022 season to do their part in hopefully keeping their playoff dreams alive at least one more week.
Ground Raven – In the last meeting between these two teams a few weeks ago, Baltimore ran for 215 yards and their top two running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, had 186 of those on 28 total carries. Those two running backs had four carries of 10 yards or longer and one of those went for 44 yards in the first quarter. To make matters even worse, the Steelers defense had a chance to get the football back late in that game had they delivered a three-and-out when everyone and their brother knew that Baltimore was going to run. They couldn’t stop those three runs in totality and that was the game. On Sunday night, the Ravens game plan will be the same as it was several weeks ago and that’s running early and often. They will run inside and outside zone and several times during the game they will have multiple offensive linemen on the move. The Steelers defense knows what’s coming on Sunday night. If they can stop the run, meaning holding the Ravens ground attack to under 100 yards, the team should have a great shot at winning the game.
Don’t Run Away From The Run This Time – The Steelers running game was pretty much nonexistent in the team’s last game against the Ravens and even though the contest was close and never out of hand. In total, the Steelers had 18 designed runs out of 53 total offensive plays, and they gained just 49 yards. While pitiful, it sure seemed like the Steelers could have made a little more of a concerted effort to run more in that game. They had just six runs on 27 plays in the second half against the Ravens in Week 14 as part of their final four possessions of the game. The last thing the Steelers need in this game is for rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett to have to drop back and throw 40 or more times. The Ravens’ defensive front might be without lineman Calais Campbell on Sunday and that’s yet another reason why the Steelers offense should probably try to run early and often. It’s January football time on Sunday night and that means it’s time for the Steelers to run the football better. The Ravens’ defense has been run on up the middle at times this season so keep that in mind.
Pick On The Replacement Corner Bird – The Ravens won’t have cornerback Marcus Peters on Sunday night as he’ll miss the game with an injury. That means that the Ravens will be starting Brandon Stephens in his place, and he’ll be the player that the Steelers might want to go after whenever Baltimore decides to use man-coverage. The Steelers have two fine receivers in Diontae Johnson and George Pickens that could present problems for Stephens in this game. It should also be noted that Stephens has five penalties in coverage on the season as well. Three of those were for defensive holding. If the Steelers are going to have perimeter passing success on Sunday night, it’s probably going to mostly come against Stephens.
On The Mark Once Again – The Steelers’ defense did an excellent job on Ravens’ tight end Mark Andrews in Week 14 as they held him to just two catches for 17 yards on six total targets. That noted, the Ravens’ offense ran the football so well in that game that Andrews really wasn’t needed that much other than being used as a blocker. Should the Steelers’ defense tighten up against the run on Sunday night, Andrews will then become the focal point in the Ravens’ offense. He’s going to get his six to ten targets just the same, so the Steelers’ defense better be ready to defend him and probably with a safety quite a few times at that. The Ravens like to win on the ground but if they struggle in that phase, they like to take Air Andrews down the field for a W. Andrews is one of the top two or three tight ends in the NFL right now. He needs to be limited Sunday night and more importantly, kept out of the end zone. He hasn’t exceeded 63 receiving yards in a game since Week 6 and he hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since then either. Both of those streaks probably need to be extended on Sunday night for the Steelers to have a great shot at beating the Ravens.
Don’t Be Kicking Yourself – In the Steelers Week 16 Saturday night home win, kicker Chris Boswell missed two field goals and that could have ultimately cost the team the game. In the last meeting against the Ravens, Boswell had a field goal blocked early in the fourth quarter and that wound up looming large as the Ravens answered that with a long drive that culminated in a field goal of their own. This Sunday night game figures to be another close one and low scoring at that so any missed field goal could wind being the difference in the game. The ravens obviously have one of the best kickers in the game in Justin Tucker and while he hasn’t been perfect this season, he’s unlikely to miss at home Sunday night. Boswell must be prefect when called upon and he certainly can’t have one blocked like the last time these two teams met in Week 14.