The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a curious situation entering the day. They won’t know until the afternoon games are played whether or not they can still mathematically qualify for the postseason in 2022 before they kick their game off later tonight.
That makes it a bit hard to writes about from one perspective because we don’t know what the stakes are. But the football itself doesn’t change regardless of what the game itself means in a broader context. It’s still blocking and tackling. The goal is still to win.
And they need to do better blocking and tackling than they did the last time they played the Baltimore Ravens if they hope to win this time around. Not only did an early blown assignment lead to a sack of quarterback Kenny Pickett that caused him to exit the game, but undisciplined and unphysical play along the defensive line allowed the Ravens to rush for a season-high 215 yards against them.
It was still just a 16-14 game in the end, and they could have easily won with any number of singular moments going a different way—such as not having a field goal blocked, or not throwing multiple interceptions within scoring range.
But that was then, this is now. The blocking and tackling needs to be better, in broader terms, but what they need to do first and foremost is consistently make Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley uncomfortable and hesitant to run.
J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are enough to worry about on the ground, so if they can at least keep the quarterback position in check, they can do a better job of focusing their efforts. It’s a task that’s easier said than done, however, against a quality offensive line.
And they also have other variables to consider compared to last time, either new to the team or in larger roles, such as the addition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and perhaps a bigger role for DeSean Jackson as well.
Offensively, the line has to be more cohesive. They got away from what they had been doing for most of the second half of the season, and it led to more penetration in the backfield, resulting in less success in the run game.
It’s too simplistic just to say that they have to protect the football better than last time, but it’s also too obvious not to say, because it’s undeniable that their three interceptions were the pivotal statistic of the game.
Of course, Pickett practically didn’t play in that game, and he’s shown much better ball security since the bye week in that regard, while Trubisky was somewhat shaky coming off the bench. What they absolutely can’t afford to do is take points off the board. Make Chris Boswell’s job as easy as possible, and at least make Justin Tucker earn his contract. That’s often the difference in the games between these two sides.