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Steelers keys to victory (or not being humiliated) vs. Ravens: Show. up.

Closer to the draft than they are to the postseason.

NFL: NOV 13 Saints at Steelers
Looking like a long season
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Closer to the draft than they are to the postseason.

A term I recently heard amid all the talk of the Steelers showing last Sunday.

It was implied that without a coaching change, the Steelers season is essentially over.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers
On Hot Seat!
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Although this might be true, we will not know as Pittsburgh still has a game to play this week against their biggest rival, the Baltimore Ravens.

Keys to victory have been very hard to determine when a team can not do the routine routinely. Pass, catch, run, tackle and block are where this team is. Finding players to watch for against the opposition is more like fortune telling as Pittsburgh does everything in its power to remain the same but still is an advocate of necessary change.

There has been some shuffling on the depth chart before this week's game. Desmond King is now the returner. WR Calvin Austin III has leaped Gunner Olszewski, and Keeanu Benton is listed over Isiahh Loudermilk. King also takes over nickel responsibilities. I’m not sure how that alters game plans as Pittsburgh has a solid core of players and playmakers, but even if it does, they are never in position. Always two steps behind, Pittsburgh needs help from the head coach on down to the sideline as the players on the field have done what they can to play above the scheme they are in.

The struggles aren’t just limited to the offense, however. This is evident on the defensive side of the ball as the first Pittsburgh three-and-out reminds them they are probably going to be on the field for longer than they should.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
Will defense show up?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This is a reality.

Pittsburgh has an elite defense but has not played like it. On offense, they have two solid running backs, a veteran offensive line, and playmaking wide receivers. But you would not know it except for a play or two throughout the games.

The gloves are off. It’s time to be real. Pittsburgh’s problem is, and has been, coaching. And the team may not have found its quarterback but it’s hard to tell with the scheme they play.

Mike Tomlin is a good man and a great leader. But he is not an elite coach. That being said, he has been successful to an extent. A coach that has never had a losing season, being real, sounds like a .500 coach. Ben’s 4th quarter heroics were part of those great .500 seasons.

What if there was no Ben?

Tomlin is a loyal man. He epitomizes being loyal to a fault. Unless this week, miraculously, regardless of who is under center, an actual miracle occurs, I do not see the Pittsburgh offense ascending much. Comments such as “we didn’t have the personnel for short yardage”, “thinking outside of the box”, “not built to come back” do not inspire much confidence.

That being said, here are some keys to victory for this week's game against the Ravens.

Key #1: Show Up

NFL: OCT 01 Steelers at Texans
TJ silenced last week
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This should be a given and most likely will occur this week. Pittsburgh has been notorious for playing down to competition, i.e. not being prepared, and it showed in last week's game.

Pittsburgh has never seemed to have this problem against the Ravens. Always a tough matchup, neither of these teams, regardless of how their season is going, has ever struggled to show up for these contests.

Tomlin-led squads always seem to recover after being humiliated. The problem then becomes if it can be schemed and spirits lifted for a game once your ego has been humbled, why is it not possible from week to week? Maybe loyalty and ego get in the way.

Pittsburgh taking the field with intention is a must this week. It will be up to the offense to protect its defense this week against Lamar Jackson. Very efficient and gaining momentum, Pittsburgh has had its way with Jackson in the past but this week could be different if Pittsburgh shows up the way they did last Sunday. Meaning - they didn’t.

Key #2: Stop Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns
Division leader Lamar Jackson
Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

Or, at least limit him. So far this season, Jackson leads his team in rushing with RB Gus Edwards slightly behind after a season-ending injury to starter J.K. Dobbins. Both are averaging over 4 yards per carry, and Jackson sits over 5. As a passer, Jackson is completing over 70% of his passes, which is also not a good sign of things to come for Pittsburgh this week. Tomlin already mentioned not allowing Zay Flowers to get open in the dark holes of the defense, and if he does, Jackson will make them pay.

This is a huge game for both squads, more so for the Steelers, and Jackson knows this. Pittsburgh will need to play very disciplined defense this week as teams have “schemed” very quick passes as well as play action and moving pockets to limit the vaunted Steeler pass rush.

Tomlin needs to counter as teams will continue to do so until Pittsburgh shows it can stop this plan of attack. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson will most likely pull the pages right from last week’s script in game planning as the rookie CJ Stroud looked like a seasoned veteran. Lamar is an MVP and starting to play like one. If he does this week, it will be a long afternoon.

Key #3 – Control the clock

Pittsburgh Steelers v Las Vegas Raiders
Pittsburgh must find way to move ball
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens have the ability to control the clock with the elite of the elite. Pittsburgh must make enough changes to keep the defense off the field for as long as possible. Unless Mike Martz has come out of retirement, from the first snap, Pittsburgh needs to utilize every second it can to shorten the game.

This will be a tough task. Baltimore fields a top defense. They know this Pittsburgh team and they know it’s struggling to find an identity, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens blitz from all over the field as their safety leads the team in sacks. Pittsburgh can expect a crowded line of scrimmage until they can find a passing game, which makes running the ball, another Pittsburgh struggle, almost impossible. Look for Pittsburgh to line up as big as they can and try and ground and pound the Ravens while keeping the game close.

Unfortunately for Steelers fans, it’s all talk at this point, and until the team can show some variation of itself that belongs in the league let alone be mentioned as a contender.

For now, Pittsburgh is not. However, this is a must-win against their biggest rival, and going into the bye, a victory might be exactly what this team needs... besides a miracle.