The Ravens will return from their bye week to face the currently undefeated Steelers. Baltimore will take first place in the AFC North with a win over Pittsburgh. Here are five keys for the Ravens to come out on top against their divisional rivals on Sunday.
1) Limit Pittsburgh’s pass rush
The Steelers possess the league’s deadliest pass rush, led by superstar OLB T.J. Watt. To go with Watt is OLB Bud Dupree, DE Cameron Heyward, and DE Stephon Tuitt. The four have combined for 16 sacks through six games. Baltimore’s offensive line has struggled with the loss of All-Pro G Marshal Yanda to retirement this offseason, so the game plan should be to get the ball out quickly in the passing game to try and limit the damage that the pass rush can cause.
On top of an insanely deadly pass rush, Pittsburgh also blitzes the second most in the NFL, as only the Ravens have blitzed more this season. Avoiding third-and-long situations will be key for Baltimore’s offense.
2) Contain offensive playmakers
The Steelers have playmakers on top of playmakers on offense. At wide receiver are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool, with Eric Ebron at tight end and James Conner at running back. Pittsburgh’s offense has been extremely efficient in the quick passing attack and maximizing YAC. The Ravens will have to tackle immediately after the catch to limit what the Steelers do best on offense.
3) Attack the middle of the field
Pittsburgh lost ILB Devin Bush for the season with a torn ACL earlier this season, leaving a potential void in the middle of the defense for Baltimore to attack. QB Lamar Jackson does his best work in the passing attack across the middle of the field, so look for him to target TE Mark Andrews there this week.
4) Get to Ben Roethlisberger
As mentioned earlier, Roethlisberger has been extremely efficient at getting the ball out of his hands quickly so far this season. The Ravens will have to make sure that Roethlisberger can’t hit easy completions consistently on Sunday, which could lead to potential sacks if he is forced to hold the ball longer or interceptions if he tries to force a pass. Baltimore’s defense cannot allow the veteran signal-caller to stay in rhythm.
5) Make the most of first down
A huge regression for the Ravens on offense so far this season has been on first downs. Too often this season Baltimore has been faced with third-and-long situations, which is a recipe for disaster against the best pass rush in the NFL. Gaining more yards on first down will go a long way in keeping the offense on the field and out of undesirable passing situations on third down.