Keys to the Ravens Game

Looking at the upcoming game against the Ravens, I think we'll see a very different attack from the Ravens.  I haven't written anything in a while due to work but I thought a post on things to expect in the upcoming game Saturday.  I'll look at all three phases of the game.  Everyone expects this game to be a tight one and a lot of people are very impressed with the Ravens destruction of the Kansas City Chiefs.  I'm not really sure why though, that Chiefs team was the same one that got blown out at him the previous week by the Raiders.  If the Raiders could do it, you knew that the Ravens could.  If you add in the fact that KC is such a young team, you have to wonder how they would hold up under the constant pressure that the Ravens create on a team.  The Ravens D may not be as good as the Steelers stat-wise but they are a darn good defense.  If you don't have a proven QB at the helms you don't really stand a chance.  So I'm not going to take too much from that game but the Ravens shouldn't be ashamed of it.  


Whether Malor wants to admit it or not, the Ravens offense under-achieved this year.  They brought in Boldin, Stallworth, Houshmanzadeh, and drafted TEs to become a more dynamic offense this year.  The Steelers lost their 'best' WR and had their franchise QB suspended for the first four games of the season and still scored more points than the Ravens.  This was an offense that was expected to break out this season but didn't.  But don't let that fool you though, they are very capable of hurting teams both on the ground and through the air.  I just don't believe that the expectations put on this offense were realistic.  Some Ravens fans will say that the coaches held the offense back but that point is mute at this point.

I fully expect the Ravens to come out throwing.  I expect them to attack us with deep routes, away from Troy, and dump off to Ray Rice when that isn't there.  They will also try to beat the pass rush by max protecting.  We saw Baltimore complete two deep passes in the last game and I think they will try to add to that success.  They will use their TEs for the intermediate passes and Mason is always a chain-moving demon.  They will supplement the run with draw plays and screens.  I doubt they will open the game trying to pound it - they will only pound it in the 4th Qtr and only if they have a lead then.  I'm not saying they won't run at all but I think the majority of their attack will be through the air.  I also will look for some trickery from the Ravens.  I believe they are desperate, they haven't beat Ben in a game that matters since 2006.  They will do everything they can to turn that tide, so I'd watch out for that.

Our defense has to do several things some of which of obvious.  The defense has to get to Flacco at all cost.  The ravens have gotten better and protecting Flacco against our elaborate blitz scheme.  It will be up to Coach Dad to tweak things to get some success in sacking Flacco.  Notice I said sacking and not pressure.  Flacco has become good at not letting the pressure fluster him.  But if you sack him and hit him, you can get him a little gun shy.  That is where you can get some turnovers.

The next thing is to cover Todd Heap.  Mr. Heap had an excellent game against the Chiefs and was inactive when the Steelers last played the Ravens.  It will be a tall task but the linebackers have to keep up with Heap to not let him get open.  Also the defensive backs have to stay in position to not let Heap get open.  He is a very dynamic pass catcher and will be a huge boost for the Ravens offense.  Keeping him in check will be essential to stopping the Ravens passing attack.

Get off the field on 3rd down.  This is very obvious.  But there have been several times where we have seen the Steelers do their job on 1st and 2nd down only to allow a 3rd and long to be completed.  The defense has to stop the short passes and runs to create 3rd and longs.  Then be able to stop 3rd downs, the more 3rd downs a team is able to convert the longer the defense stays on the field which means you can't score, the defense gets tired, and the probability of the opponents scoring goes up.  Stopping the deep ball will be crucial also as I do expect the Ravens to try us deep and away from Troy.   


Now on to the Defense....

As stated before, the Ravens defense did not put up the same caliber stats that the Steelers defense did this year.  But they are still one of the top 5 defenses in the league.  They can be ran on, on occasion but the Steelers have never enjoyed that success.  I expect this defense to come out and play well as they always do, harassing Ben and givng Mendy very little space to work with.  We all know how dangerous suggs is and he should be salivating at the chance of going up against J. Scott again.  While the Steelers offensive line has played well in the last 3 games, until they protect Ben against the Ravens D I will never feel comfortable about their play going into this matchup.  I need to see it to believe it.

I see T. Cody getting some time beside Ngata which will make for a massive front, while sending sack specialist Suggs in for Ben's head.  They could drop everyone back and still may get to Ben with that scheme.  Ray Lewis while not the explosive player he was 10 years ago, is extremely smart and is always in the mix.  I expect Ben to get sacked at least twice in this game and don't really see the running game taking off.  

I feel that our offense can have success against the defense but they will have to play their best game of the season.  For one, I believe that the offensive line needs to have the game of its life, Ben can't get sacked more than 3 times in the game.  If they can give space for Mendy to be effective then that will bode well for us.  It will be key for the blitzes to be picked up and communication to be coherent.  You don't want to double team Ngata and leave another man flying free at Ben.  If Ben has a good pocket early that will be a good sign as the game progresses.

Attack the defense deep early.  Nothing will be better than to hit Wallace deep for a TD in the first drive.  If you can have those defensive back thinking about the homerun ball that will open things up for the short and intermediate passes.  Then Wallace can show the Ravens his added dimension with the slant route that he can take to the house.  This can also open up the running game.  But I'd go deep a couple of times especially if its working, try rolling Ben out of the pocket to buy him more time from the rush and see if he can get Wallace on a bomb, it will be beautiful.

Get your Heath Bar.  Let Heath get action often and early, he completely changes this offense.  He isn't a speed deamon but he is very savvy knowing how to sit in zones and using his body to shield off smaller defenders.  We have a Pro Bowl TE we must use him especially if the blitz is coming.

Roll Rookies Roll  Sanders/Brown should get touches throughout the game.  With Brown you get the feeling that he can take one to the house every time he touches the ball.  Sanders is filling the role of the 3rd WR nicely and should be able to take advantage of Wallace getting most of the attention in coverage.

I expect if things are in a bind and the game is close that there will be a good old Whisenhunt gadget play.  I'm not sure which one it will be, but expect to see it.  Hopefully we won't need to use it.


Special Teams don't have to be special.

All we need special teams to do is do their job, no penalties, stay in your lanes, and make tackles.  We got Suishim's miss already out of the way, now its time to start another made-field-goals-in-a-row streak.  Don't expect to get any good run backs because the Ravens kicker more than likely will have nothing but touchbacks all game.


Those are my keys to the game and what to expect, if you have anything to add, feel free.  This game can go either way.  We need our stars, Harrison, Troy, and Ben to come up big.  Go Steelers.

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