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Analyzing how the Steelers can use an uptempo offense to exploit the Ravens defense

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NFL: Wild Card Playoff-Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has changed since the Steelers last played the Baltimore Ravens back in Week 9. The Steelers are no longer on a losing streak, their rookies are playing faster due to knowing the defense better, they’re playing with better technique and the Steelers defense generally has done a complete 180, particularly with their pass rush compiling 19 sacks in their 5-game winning streak, after starting the season with 13 sacks through nine games.

The Ravens are also different, having shown some cracks in their armor on the defensive side the past two weeks against the Patriots and the Eagles. Whether it was the Eagles’ use of counter runs, or the Patriots up-tempo offense, they provided a blueprint on how to gash their defense, something they hadn’t shown before the Week 9 game.

Up-tempo, spread-‘em-out offense

The thing I stressed about the Ravens’ defense back in Week 9 was that they were super disciplined with some good, but not amazing, players. They didn’t have the most amazing athletes on that team and you rarely, if ever, should run against them.

Well, New England was really effective at spreading out that Ravens defense because they were able to go with an up-tempo attack to produce the matchups they wanted, while not allowing substitutions to be made.

You have a linebacker like C.J Mosley on James White lined up man-to-man and the safety over the top jumps Edelman’s route underneath. Doing so opens up a throwing lane for Brady to White. This play got the Patriots all the way to the Ravens red-zone.

This is what the Steelers can do, and what they’ll have to do. Ben has to be able to throw it over the middle effectively, which means Eli Rogers must step up. If you remember though, that was what Ben failed to do well in the previous meeting until the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh went with a higher tempo offense.

These are the throws Ben has to make in this game. Coverage is going to be tight and he’s proven capable of making those throws before.

Quite simply, a lot of the end result is going to be how Ben plays in this game, and how offensive line plays. If they play as they’ve played during this 5-game winning streak (except the Bills game for Ben), they should be able to win.

Of course, the run is going to be a factor no matter what.

Keep Brandon Williams out of the equation

If Ben ends up being in a funk, then the Black and Gold will need to lean on the run game. The Steelers have essentially established their identity around the run during this winning streak, so there’s really no reason I could see them getting away from it.

Remember though, take Brandon Williams out of the equation.

Williams is a throwback nose tackle and he’s truly what makes their run defense so special. He’s what allows the LBs not to get blocked at the second level, he’s why Pittsburgh couldn’t run it worth a damn last time.

This is what the Eagles did so well against the Ravens, they doubled him, they ran a lot off of the left tackle and found great success. Whatever it takes, double team him, get the tackle on him, do whatever you possibly can to make Williams a non-factor because he’s what makes their run defense so great.

Conclusion

Ben is going to have to be great for the Steelers to finally finish the job and “Run The North” but truthfully it’s going to take a full team effort (duh).

Where did the Steelers lose the Week 9 game? Special teams. They did their job on defense, and other than that one play to Wallace, the Ravens offense didn’t do much, unless the Steelers offense was turning it over to them in their own territory. Then, of course, their fourth quarter effort came up short.

Quite simply, Pittsburgh can’t afford to screw around. They need to set the tone, they need to spread them out, they need to put their foot on the gas pedal from beginning to end.

Pittsburgh is going to have to be on their “A” game if they want to beat this Ravens team. They can’t afford to lose the discipline battle, and that means not shooting yourself in the foot with those stupid penalties.

This team has been through a lot, and they can put their woes behind them with one more win on Christmas.

That’s all I want under the tree...a Steelers invitation to the playoffs.

Finish the job Steelers, “RUN THE NORTH!”