Thanks to the Steelers playing an afternoon affair on the West Coast this past Sunday, I was granted the opportunity to watch the majority of the Ravens vs the Chiefs showdown. As expected, the Chiefs won a hard fought contest at home in Kansas City, but an unfamiliar sight occurred along the path to another Chiefs victory.
The Baltimore Ravens actually played defense. I must have been mistaken, because I though that was against the rules. The Ravens managed to slow down the juggernaut that is the Chiefs offense, actually making them appear mortal for a change.
The Ravens defensive front manhandled the Chiefs blockers and harassed Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes through out the game. Mahomes was running for his life and forced to improvise with spectacular running throws on multiple occasions to win the game in overtime.
The Ravens defensive backfield were ultra aggressive through out as well. They applied their own pressure with in-your-face press coverage that threw the talented Chiefs receivers off their routes and disrupted their timing. They maintained contact throughout the route by any means necessary, continually grabbing and pulling on every play. The Ravens weren't concerned about the penalties that could have been called on just about every play, because they understood what the few effective defenses in the league already know.
They can't call them all, especially if you play aggressively every play, and are accomplished in disguising your techniques.
By utilizing this super aggressive man coverage, it allowed the Ravens pass rushers those precious extra seconds to get to Mahomes. Mahomes was visibly affected.
Late in the game the Ravens really threw the young superstar QB for a loop. They had all eleven defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage pre-snap. Some plays they would drop back a safety at the last moment, but other times they came with the all-out blitz. Mahomes was both shaken and confused.
It was so effective because Mahomes was totally caught off guard. Nobody previously had the marbles to challenge the youngster and his talented group of skill position players that way. The Ravens almost pulled off the upset.
The Sunday night game featured another strong defensive performance, this time it was the Chicago Bears defense shutting down the high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense. It was more of the same, an ultra aggressive defense creating havoc for a explosive offense.
That makes the Ravens and the Bears two teams nobody wants to face this post season, and for good reason.
As I watched the Steelers/Raiders matchup that evening, I couldn't help but notice the Steelers lack of competitiveness on defense, especially in coverage. They played a lot of off man coverage with zone behind it. No jam to speak of at the line of scrimmage, resulting in free releases off the line with no disruption of timing. With little to no resistance the receivers were instantly open, and the ball was coming out exceptionally quick.
Just like in the previous couple games, the pass rush was applying pressure and getting penetration, but didn't have quite enough time to get to their destination.
This defense suffers from a lack of ball awareness and opportunistic ball hawks, that is for certain. Also, an impact player that opposing offenses were forced to game plan against sure would be nice. However, the defense is doomed to failure before the ball is even snapped due to poorly designed schemes and formations.
I am not saying the Steelers have defensive talent comparable to the Ravens or the Bears, because they don't. However, I feel they are capable of more if put in a position to be successful. Hopefully Bulter can steal a page from the Ravens playbook and prove me right, or prove me wrong. At least give them a fighting chance.