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Steelers News: Defense preparing for plenty of Lamar Jackson in Week 9

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won three straight games and have finally started to “stack wins”. After their 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, the team has to move on quickly as they prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens, on the road, in Week 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how in the Week 4 matchup between the Ravens and Steelers, Baltimore’s package of plays for rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson certainly took many by surprise. It wasn’t how the Ravens hadn’t utilized him before, but he hadn’t been used that much in the previous weeks leading up to the game at Heinz Field.

Now, entering the second matchup in Week 9, the Steelers’ defense is preparing for more Jackson, and this includes him throwing as well as running.

Let’s get to the news:

Kevin Gorman: Steelers preparing for Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, trick plays

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens is built on the same foundation as the AFC North foes themselves, predicated on the predictability of playing against a tough defense.

Where Baltimore boasts the NFL’s top-ranked defense, the Steelers are wary of the plot twists the Ravens present with their unpredictable play-calling with an offense that has two dangerous threats at quarterbacks: Joe Flacco’s arm and Lamar Jackson’s legs.

Jon Bostic brought that up Wednesday between gulps of Gatorade while sitting at his locker at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. The Steelers inside linebacker recalled watching tape of the Ravens’ 26-14 victory at Heinz Field, as the wee hours of September became October.

That’s when Bostic saw a formation he hadn’t recognized in game-planning: Ravens tight end Maxx Williams lined up next to center Matt Skura on a third-and-1, only to run free and catch a slant pass for a 22-yard gain. On the NBC telecast, former referee Terry McAulay said the Ravens got away with the deception play, as Williams should have lined up further back from the line of scrimmage to be an eligible receiver.

“The over-route came out of nowhwere. He was at guard!” Bostic said. “We found out it was illegal after, so it was a good play call by them. The refs didn’t catch it, either. So you’ve got to be ready for stuff like that. They’re going to throw everything. It’s a rivalry game.”

The only thing the Steelers expect from the Ravens is the unexpected, especially as it pertains to their use of Jackson, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville and No. 32 overall pick.

That the Steelers are preparing for Jackson doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for how the Ravens will utilize him. And they don’t want to spend too much time on the rookie, given that Flacco completed 28 of 42 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting.

The Steelers prepared for Jackson in the first meeting, too, only to see him run 8 yards to set up a first-quarter touchdown for a 14-0 lead and convert a crucial third-and-3 from the Baltimore 40 in the second half. Jackson finished with four carries for 17 yards, but two proved critical.

The Steelers don’t know what the Ravens will have up their sleeve, so they are trying to be ready for anything. That includes keeping an eye on Flacco when he is split wide on plays when Jackson is taking snaps.

“I haven’t seen that on a game film, but I wouldn’t put it past them to try it against us,” Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt said, “You never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to be prepared for every situation.”

Jackson has completed 6 of 11 passes for 75 yards with a touchdown, and has 23 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown in eight games this season. He was used mostly in short-yardage and red-zone situations early in the season, but the Ravens are incorporating Jackson into their offense more each week.

“He’s a quarterback first, and I think people kind of forget that,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “I know he prides himself in being a quarterback first. He can sling the ball. I think when he gets the chance to and goes in a game like that, he’s only going to shine. I think people are surprised by seeing that, but he’s been doing that all along since rookie camp. No one here is really surprised by anything.”

Steelers expect desperate Ravens in AFC North rematch

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers were at a crossroads in their season Sept. 30 after the Baltimore Ravens shut them out in the second half while handing them a 26-14 defeat at Heinz Field.

They responded, of course, with three consecutive wins to move into first place in the AFC North with a 4-2-1 record.

When the two teams meet again Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, it will be the Ravens staring at a critical juncture of their season. They have lost three of their past four games, including two in a row, and take a 4-4 record into the return engagement.

Steelers players didn’t see that coming when the Ravens left Heinz Field with a 3-1 record almost five weeks ago.

“Very much so,” guard Ramon Foster said when asked if he’s surprised by the Ravens record. “Knowing them, they will do everything they can not to stay that way.”

“For sure,” cornerback Joe Haden added. “With all the talent they have on offense and the way the defense is playing out of this world, I didn’t expect that.”

The Ravens have the NFL’s top-ranked defense, allowing 17.1 points per game. They’ve also permitted the fewest amount of yards. But an offense that was averaging almost 31 points scored nine in an overtime loss to Cleveland, and a defense that hadn’t given up a touchdown in the second half through six weeks yielded 17 fourth-quarter points to New Orleans in a 24-23 loss and surrendered a season-high 36 points last week in a loss at Carolina.

That puts the Ravens at a potential tipping point of their schedule. Not only do they trail the Steelers, they are a game behind second-place Cincinnati (5-3). And, after the Ravens host the Steelers, they face the Bengals on their home surface after their bye week.

“It would make a big difference if we win,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on a conference call Wednesday. “That would be very important for us if we were able to win out.”

How important? ESPN’s Football Power Index projects the Ravens will have an 85.6 percent chance of making the playoffs if they beat the Steelers and Bengals. Lose twice and the Ravens’ chances dip to 10.4 percent.

And, like the Steelers, the Ravens will have just one division game remaining down the stretch when they close out the regular season by hosting the Browns.

“I don’t care where you play your main rival or any of your division games, it’s real important to play well in those games and win as many of them as we can,” Harbaugh said. “We understand the challenge that is in front of us. We understand how well (the Steelers) are playing. We get what they are about.

“I think these two teams understand each other probably better than any two teams in the league understand each other and how to play each other. We relish the opportunity, but we also understand how difficult it is, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Ravens are talking about Ben, James & more

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers official website

The Steelers hit the road this week for their third straight AFC North game, this time facing the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens beat the Steelers Week 4 of the season, 26-14, and Baltimore knows it’s going to be a tough battle this week.

“They’ve won three in a row,” said Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. “They’re playing really well. They’re not giving up the big plays like they did a little more earlier in the year. They’ve tightened up that part of it. They’ve talked about that. I’ve seen that.

“To me, they’re playing Steeler football in that sense. They’re playing hard defensively. They’ve made big plays on offense. They’re running the ball very well. That’s probably the biggest thing that sticks out. They have James Conner really rolling. The offensive line is healthy with (David) DeCastro back there.

“They’re the same team that we’ve seen over the years. They’re playing very well, and that’s where they’re at.”

The Ravens had plenty more to say about the Steelers, including more on Conner.

Harbaugh on Conner:

“He’s getting better, and they’re emphasizing the run game, which is something that they always want to do.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco on if the Steelers look different now than in the first game they played this season:

“I think these guys are really playing well. They’re playing fast. I think when you turn on the tape, you see a lot of speed, you see them pushing the pocket a little bit, getting after the quarterback, doing some more things to let those guys really go and play fast and aggressive.

“I think they’ve looked good in the short time since we’ve played them. They’re a good football team for a reason. If there are little things here and there that they need to get better at, they do a good job cleaning things up and getting after it.”

Linebacker Terrell Suggs on Ben Roethlisberger’s broken finger:

“I hope he gets it better. Get that looked at – help him with his workmen’s comp at the end when he’s done.”

Suggs on trading jerseys with Ben Roethlisberger after the game earlier this season:

“He asked last year in the second game, in the first or second quarter. He said Suggs I want that jersey. We planned last year. He reminded me this year. No big deal. Just opponents showing respect.”