Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. made a return to the practice field on Thursday, Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. His status on Sunday will be a game time decision. But his possible return does not mean that the Ravens should lean heavily on the pass, as they have done in recent weeks. Instead, it’s time to lean heavily on Terrance West.
Ever since the Ravens gave him full control of the backfield in the second half against the Raiders, running back Terranc West has been the most explosive player on the offense. West has been extremely effective, posting 85 yards in three of his last four games. In addition, West is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. That is higher than Lamar Miller, Melvin Gordon Jr., and LeGarrette Blount, all of whom are in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of rushing yards this season. West has also found pay dirt three times in that span.
If West’s stats since the Oakland loss were listed without his name attached, one would believe they are the numbers of a top 10 running back, as West has finished in the top 10 in rushing yards in Weeks 4, 5 and 6. The Ravens seemed to have found a diamond in the rough with West, so why does the offense refuse to feature him?
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown over 40 pass attempts in every game this season, excluding Week 1. Flacco has been inefficient and ineffective in 2016. In his last two starts, Flacco has had very mediocre completion percentages: 54.2% and 56.8% against the Giants and Jets respectively. As I have previously written, that is not the formula for the Ravens success. I wrote it then, and I repeat it now, the Ravens need to feed Terrance West.
The Ravens have always been a run first team, and there is no good reason to shy away from that now. As the Ravens face a Steelers defense that has allowed 362 rushing yards in its past two games, West needs to be the featured man on offense, looking to expose that weakness.
Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg needs to take a page out of Gary Kubiak’s book. With Kubiak on the Ravens sidelines as an offensive coordinator in 2014, Baltimore’s offense had one of its best seasons in franchise history. That season was largely hinged on feeding running back Justin Forsett, and running the ball down opponent’s throats. West is the kind of grind-for-every-yard running back that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh loves, so why not use him more?