With reports circulating that the Pittsburgh Steelers are close to signing free-agent RB Ben Tate on the heels of Le'Veon Bell's knee injury in the Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tate's history vs. the Baltimore Ravens doesn't leave Steelers fans with a warm and fuzzy feeling about their running game this Saturday if Bell is unable to play.
Tate has faced the Ravens once per year during his first three seasons in the NFL, all with the Houston Texans, and the results of his performances have been rather mundane. Before going any further, it should be noted how Tate was used in the Gary Kubiak system in Houston as a backup for Arian Foster.
Nonetheless, Tate's numbers show a running back who struggled to gain ground, as many do, vs. the Ravens defensive front. In 2011, Tate's rookie year, he rushed for 41 yards on nine attempts. In his sophomore season of 2012, Tate rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries. His final season with the Texans in 2013 saw him rush for 36 yards on nine carries. Do the math and this equates to a 4.07-yards-per-carry average. Of all his carries against the Ravens, his longest run was for 12 yards.
A 4.0 average against the Ravens isn't a bad average. In fact, many running backs have done much worse against Haloti Ngata and company. But in Tate's position of playing his first game for the Steelers against the Ravens in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs, this will be no easy task.
If signed, Tate will primarily be used in passing situations to help protect Ben Roethlisberger against the oncoming blitz by the Ravens' defense, but if he's able to create some traction with the ground game and keep the Ravens honest, it will be a mission accomplished for the Steelers' lethal offensive unit.