The Steelers’ easiest path to the playoffs begins with a win over the Ravens on Saturday. They’ll need to gain additional help, but getting to 10-7 is what comes first and foremost.
Pittsburgh has won six of the last seven over Baltimore, and this is how they’ll make it seven of eight.
1. Slow down the Ravens’ run game
Baltimore isn’t going to go bombs away with Tyler Huntley and Laquon Treadwell. They are going to pound the rock with Huntley and their running backs and play a mostly danger-free game to try to escape uninjured. The Steelers aren’t great against the run, ranking 16th in EPA per rush. Run heavy teams like the Colts and 49ers have had their way with the Steelers’ run defense this season. With the weather also expected to be bad in Baltimore, the Steelers need to sell out to stop the run. Make Tyler Huntley beat you with his arm.
2. Protect the ball
The Ravens’ defense is without a doubt the toughest test Mason Rudolph has faced thus far. Baltimore ranks fourth in total defense, and they lead the NFL in takeaways. Mike Macdonald is as good at disguising coverages as any defensive coordinator in football. Rudolph has to be cautious, but also not afraid to continue taking shots. Cautious aggressiveness will help the Steelers more than being aggressively cautious. You can play smart without playing scared, and the Steelers can’t afford to play scared.
3. Beat the Ravens’ JV team
Would the Ravens like to win this game? Sure. Is it their main priority? No. They want to get into the playoffs as healthy as possible, hence why they are resting multiple key players. If the Steelers can’t defeat a Baltimore team with nothing to play for, they don’t deserve to get into the playoffs. One could argue they don’t deserve to get in after losing to two consecutive two-win teams, but that’s neither here nor there. Whatever happens with the Bills and Jaguars is out of the Steelers control- they need to worry about taking care of business.