The 6-0 Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Baltimore for a rivalry matchup against the 5-1 Ravens. All the ingredients for a classic Steelers/Ravens game are present for not only this game but the season a whole. Both teams sit on top of the AFC North partially due to respective beatdowns of the Browns on both sides. Elite defenses that are very physical and whose goal is to overpower and outmatch their opponent. And of course, a healthy Ben Roethlisberger will go head to head against reigning MVP Lamar Jackson for the first time.
- Make Lamar Jackson a pocket passer
Perhaps the biggest example of strength vs strength we’ve seen this season will be on full display in this game. The Ravens have the number one rushing attack in the NFL so far but the Steelers are ranked second in run defense. Both teams will still be fully intent on establishing their brand of football and won’t yield easily to the other side. However, the reason this is a bigger test for the Steelers than even Derrick Henry is because of the dual threat nature at the QB position.
Lamar Jackson is still the most dynamic and electric rusher in the entire league. Not only him but the staple of backs they possess makes the run game potent. It’s not like Lamar is without a weakness as he still hasn’t been able to consistently throw the football with precision. Watt and Dupree must do what they’ve done all season in harassing the passer to force errant throws.
The Steelers must force him to make tough throws by not giving him a clean pocket and make him beat the Steelers with his arm. The biggest key to beating this Ravens team is making Jackson throw for a big game instead of having one on the ground.
- Get out to a fast start
One aspect of both of these teams that isn’t well covered is when they play at their best. Both teams are used to getting the lead through putting up points quickly and establishing their brands of football. The Ravens overpower and pile up yards on the ground which wears down the defensive line to help Lamar not be under pressure later in the game. They grab the lead and never look back.
On the other end, the Steelers are relatively similar in that they’ve been able to lead at halftime in 5 out of 6 of their games. Both teams aren’t perfect as the Steelers have the tendency to give up big leads and almost blow the game and the Ravens have a small chance to win a football game once they get down by multiple scores. I would bet on the Ravens’ weakness looming larger because of the context of this game.
When the Steelers give up big leads, it’s to inferior competition and we saw what they did to another AFC North team in the Browns. They were locked in for 60 minutes because it was a rivalry game. Same deal here which leads me to believe that if the Steelers can jump out to a significant early lead, they’ll be in great shape to win the game.
- Terrell Edmunds vs Mark Andrews
This is by far the most underrated and possibly important positional matchup of the entire game. Mark Andrews is the Ravens best target when it comes to catching the football. He’s been nothing but consistent and productive for the past two seasons and has emerged as a top three tight end in all of football.
On the other side of the coin, Terrell Edmunds has filled up a once seen weakness earlier in the season for the Steelers. That weakness was the one on one game with a high end tight end. Pittsburgh seemed to not have the personnel to guard a tight end due to their corners being too small and the linebackers being too slow. However, that flaw has been patched up since the Broncos game in week two due to the stellar play of Edmunds.
He’s taken the primary assignment of guarding the opposing team’s tight end and locked them down for four straight weeks. In the last four weeks, Edmunds has given up an average of 17 yards a game to tight ends and a mere 2 catches per game. Andrews will be his biggest test yet, and if he passes, then this could help him live up to his first round draft status.
- Win some one on one matchups on the outside
Without a doubt the hardest matchup for the Steelers will be their wide receivers versus the Ravens secondary. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters can lock down and the Steelers don’t have the best trio of wideouts. While Claypool, Juju, and Johnson have stepped up and all shown out and made big plays, they’ve yet to prove themselves against the best competition.
The Steelers will have to be creative schematically in lining up where each receiver fits best on the field. Humphrey will most likely go up against Juju or Johnson depending on who lines up more in the slot. My best guess is it will be Juju vs Humphrey in the slot and the advantage goes to Humphrey. This would allow Johnson to go up against Peters which is more favorable considering Johnson’s excellent release and ability to get yards after catch.
Finally, Claypool will be tested against a cornerback with size in Jimmy Smith. The Ravens would want that matchup because Smith is the closest to Claypool’s size at 6 foot 2 compared to 6 foot 4. It will be tough sledding for the Steelers young wide receiving core, but if they can win enough one on one matchups especially downfield, then that could go a long way in deciding the outside of this game. If the Steelers are able to execute on these keys, then that will give them a great shot at pulling off the upset on the road.