The Baltimore Ravens are once again a contender to win the AFC North. At 3-1, they sit atop the division as they head into Acrisure Stadium to take on the Steelers. These players are going to be especially difficult for Pittsburgh to handle, and they’ll have to keep tabs on them if they want to escape with a win.
TE Mark Andrews
Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews can be a nightmare for opposing offenses. Amongst the best tight ends in the league, he keeps the chains moving and is the primary red zone target for the Ravens.
A solid inside blocker as well, he helps lead the way for Lamar Jackson’s run plays as well as offers him an outlet on broken plays. With three TD’s already to start the year, he leads the Ravens in Touchdowns and is second on the team in receptions. With some of the best hands in the league, Mark catches about 80 percent of the targets he receives. The starting receivers, including Andrews, are becoming one of the more efficient receiving corps in the league.
For the better part of his career the Steelers seem to always rise to the occasion against the Ravens limiting the offensive output but this year there has been zero consistency defensively and Andrews is a player the team does not want to have a bad day against.
WR Zay Flowers
With two plays over 25 yards already, Flowers has quickly become Jackson’s first look. Flowers is a savvy route runner with speed to spare.
For a rookie, he and Jackson are building a chemistry very quickly to start his career. He leads the team in targets, receptions, as well as catch percentage. That’s saying a lot on a team that has Mark Andrews.
His ability to get open as well as take the top off the defense should be of concern for Pittsburgh. Upper echelon receivers have been having their way with the Steelers defense. Although Flowers is not a household name yet, he is well on his way barring injury.
Pittsburgh will have to do better than they have the last few weeks down the seam or it could be a big day for the rookie, and a long one for Pittsburgh.
RB Gus Edwards
In his sixth season now, the veteran Gus Edwards is a bull.
After watching the Houston Texans run game explode for the first time this season last week, Steelers coaches need to have a better plan of attack to stop the running game led by Edwards and Jackson
Averaging 4.5 yards per carry, he allows the Ravens to stay on schedule with powerful first down runs that set up play action and RPO’s that become tough to stop. Pittsburgh will need to win on first down to help slow down the Ravens run game.
S Kyle Hamilton
In his second year out of Notre Dame, Hamilton is becoming everything as advertised.
With a fumble recovery, interception, and an astonishing 3 sacks already, his placement on the field must be accounted for every play. The Ravens, not unlike Pittsburgh’s use of Minkah Fitzpatrick, will move Hamilton around trying to set up the offense for a mistake.
With his size, Hamilton is practically another linebacker on the field in the run game. His speed is great when it comes to closing in on ball carriers, as well as surprise the quarterback with well timed blitzes.
Pittsburgh will need to play smart football and move him around with misdirection’s and the use of their eyes.
LB Roquan Smith / Patrick Queen
Roquan Smith is a monster in the middle. A little undersized for an ILB but he makes up for it with technique, speed, and tenacity. He took an already good defense and made it a championship caliber after coming over from Chicago. With Patrick Queen next to him, the two have formed one of the better linebacking corps in the league.
With stars on both sides of the ball (we really didn’t even talk about former MVP Lamar Jackson) the changes Pittsburgh made this week need to be significant as this game has incredible meaning for this early in the season. With a win, Pittsburgh remains tied for the division lead going into their bye. A loss would put them in a 2-3 hole that will be very difficult to get out of.