This week brings the Steelers to Baltimore to battle the Ravens with the AFC North division championship hanging in the balance.
The Steelers lost a tough one to the Ravens in the waning moments of week four. The loss still stings because of the Steelers failure to control the line of scrimmage and because Joe Flacco so easily flailed the Steelers secondary on the final drive.
Both teams bring identical records, a penchant for deciding games in the final moments, and all of the animosity that comes with a division rivalry.
Throughout the professional media and blopesphere Steelers Nation is currently anxiously analyzing this team, tweaking tendencies, and proffering predictions.
And so it happens here at Steel Curtain Rising. Much of what follows below falls into the “no brainer” category however there is one key that most others seem to miss.
Put Away the Penalty Flags
The Steelers had the Cincinnati on the ropes, but several key defensive penalties helped the Bengals make a game of it. Ditto the Bills. If Mendenhall’s 40+ yard runs stands, Steve “Wonder” Johnson likely never gets a chance to drop the game winning pass in OT.
And lest we forget, a series of offensive line penalties late in the game prevented the Steelers from running out the clock and gave Baltimore great field position on its final drive. This cannot happen again.
Protect Ben Open Lanes for the Running Backs
Another no brainer. This is scary, given how easily the Patriots and Bills collapsed the left and interior of our line. The Steeler offensive line must play better than it has in recent weeks to have any chance to remaining competitive with the Ravens.
- The Steelers have used Doug Legerskey and David Johnson in the backfield as blockers on running plays -- why not put them back there on passing plays as well?
Patrity in the Passing Game
We know Joe Flacco is going to pass the ball on us. We know because he did it in October, when the Steelers defense was far healthier. Still, the Steelers cannot allow him the same amount of time it allowed Tom Brady or Ryan Fitzpatrick. Beyond this, Ben needs to get Hines Ward involved in the passing game as he was in Buffalo and he needs to restore Mike Wallace as a deep threat.
Ready to Run?
Ed Bouchette thinks that neither the Steelers nor the Ravens will have much success on the ground.
Peter King and Behind the Steel Curtain's Michael Bean think there is a chance that Mendenhall will be a factor. I tend to agree with Bouchette, if for no other reason than the offensive line's shaky play. Hopefully I am wrong and King and Bean are right, because the Steelers can help themselves tremendously if they can move the ball on the ground.
Special Teams... Ace in the Hole?
Even the Steelers can get better line play and stay even with the Raven's in the passing game the smart money would still be on the Ravens to win this game, if for no other reason than they are at home, they are healthier than the Steelers, and perhaps because the officials will keep Steelers defenders on an extra short leash.
The key to a Steelers victory could be in their special teams. Although the kick coverage teams suffered some hiccups against the Bills, Al Everest's special teams have shown themselves to be capable of striking blood. To defeat the Ravens in Baltimore, the Steelers will need their specials teams to make momentum changing, "splash" plays.
Mike Tomlin's admission that both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown might dress is an indication that he is aware of this and is game planning accordingly.
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