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Steelers Film Room: Pittsburgh must shut down the run in rematch with the Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens won at Heinz Field earlier this season, and it was in large part due to the ground game. We take a look at what Pittsburgh cannot have happen this week.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season, they had help from the whopping 191 yards they gained on the ground. Justin Forsett led the way for 150 yards on 27 carries and opened up more opportunities for Joe Flacco's offense to stay in the game against a Steelers team that was on its third string quarterback with Michael Vick and a hapless kicker in Josh Scobee.

Months after that game, the tides have turned for this matchup. Instead, the Ravens are now missing their starting quarterback in Joe Flacco, as well as Forsett at running back. This means that they are relying on Ryan Mallett to beat the Steelers, something which Baltimore might not be excited to see..

That being said, the Steelers' primary focus should be forcing the Ravens to be one-dimensional on offense. Take away their ground game and force them to make Clausen take full command of the offense and make tough throws consistently throughout the game. Clausen is certainly more experienced than he was the last time he played this defense, but he's still just a journeyman quarterback in the NFL. The Steelers' primary scheme on defense should be to shut down Baltimore's ground game and make Clausen, or any Baltimore quarterback, beat them.

We take a look at the things Pittsburgh did wrong against the run last time facing the Ravens to see what they should fix up.

First Play:

Flacco's absence in this game won't just hurt the passing game for the Ravens, but presumably also its ground attack. Flacco's experience in the NFL has allowed him to grow and see where pre-snap reads can make the game much easier for an offense to take what defenses give on certain plays. Here he saw a flaw in the Steelers' gap responsibilities and audibled the running play right to the weak spot. The Steelers will need to not make holes so easy for offenses to take, but as of late their run defense has improved significantly from where it was earlier this season.

Second Play:

Another thing to consider is just how much better the defense has been playing as of late. Cam Thomas has not been the glaring weakness that he was for the defense in the beginning of the season, mostly thanks to the high snap counts of Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward and Steven McLendon. But also Bud Dupree's experience as an outside linebacker should also allow him to feel more comfortable with being aggressive and trusting what he sees so that he can make plays. Cut backs should not be as available this week as they were in week four.

Third Play:

This play was another example of the Steelers' mistakes in gap responsibility during the first game. Sean Spence had a rough game against the Ravens as he replaced Ryan Shazier as you can see here and in the first GIF. As a whole, communication is the key to preventing these errors, something which Mike Tomlin echoed last week as the team adjusted against the Denver Broncos.


The Steelers' defense has made improvements this season with its front seven bringing more heat and helping to create more turnovers. While turnovers are great and can be crucial to securing wins, I would like to do a film room session next week about how the Steelers' run defense improved with the way they played against the Ravens this weekend. If they can be strong against the run, it will make going up against playoff opponents like the Patriots with James White and Stephen Jackson, or the Bengals with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, or the Chiefs with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, a less daunting task.