The Steelers are coming off a much needed bye week, and could be getting Ben Roethlisberger and other reinforcements back for Ravens week.
Ben is coming off knee injury which could limit him somewhat going forward which is why the offensive line will need to step up a ton going forward.
A good way to keep pressure off Roethlisberger is by running the ball with Le'Veon Bell, but it definitely won't be easy against this stellar ravens run defense. Their defensive line and their linebackers have contributed to having the third best rushing defense in the league.
Lets take a look at just why they've been so good at stopping the run.
The Ravens defense, just from the looks of it, is not your stereotypical 3-4 or even 4-3 defense. This is an absolute hybrid defense at it's core.
Their defensive line consists of Timmy Jernigan, who's listed at DT, Brandon Williams, who's listed as the nose, and Lawrence Guy who's the DE.
Just from the way it's listed I assumed Jernigan would be the guy who's line up on a guard (2 or 3 tech), with Williams of course being lined up over the center (0 or 1 tech) and Guy being the 2 gaping 5 technique. That is a the epitome of hybrid defensive line. A 5 technique is something you'd normally see with the 3-4 defense and 3 technique is something that's mostly associated with a 4-3 defense.
Moving onto their linebackers, Terrell Suggs was listed as the rush linebacker (ROLB), C.J Mosely along with Zachary Orr as the inside linebackers and Albert McClellan is the sam linebacker. The rush linebacker and two ILB's are typically associated with 3-4 defense and the sam linebacker is used with a 4-3 defense.
This is what their typical formation looks like:
This defensive line does a great job of really disrupting the line and freeing up the LB's to make the tackles. The Ravens LB's do a great job of shooting gaps and making sound tackles.
This is an example of shooting your gap and playing with discipline. Orr does a great job not getting stuck in that mess and stays true to his gap, making the tackle and forcing the ball out (granted it was the fumble prone Matt Jones). This is an example of sound gap integrity by Orr.
Bell is a patient runner and having your LB's not over pursue and maintaining their gap integrity is crucial to stopping a patient runner like Bell.
This discipline and patience shows up a lot on film and honestly film junkies such as myself love seeing this kind of assignment football executed so well collectively as a unit.
McClellan does an excellent job of not over pursuing and he instead keeps containment which doesn't allow any opening whatsoever for Reggie Bush. This is textbook assignment football and this is quintessential to stopping a RB like Bell because he will take advantage of any opening you give him.
The Ravens aren't the kind of team that will let you wait for a hole to develop either.
This is constant hustle towards the football which is responsible for not allowing Washington to hit the hole in time. The Ravens pride themselves on stopping the run and it comes to no surprise that finding cracks in the armor is quite difficult.
Can the Steelers run the football against this Ravens front? They can, but it requires not just the greatness of Le'Veon Bell but the offensive line really stepping up and sending a message that "We're going to run the football and you can't stop us."
That kind of play is crucial to this game because regardless of whether Ben Roethlisberger or Landry Jones is under center, the Steelers have got to to establish the run to either protect Roethlisberger by keeping him from getting hit or not having to rely on Landry Jones to win the game (welp).
If the Steelerss fail to establish the run, they're not going to win this game.
If they are able to run effectively against the Ravens, I have no doubt they'll win.
AFC North football is won and lost in the trenches.