When Pittsburgh and Baltimore show up for a game, it’s a given from nearly every NFL fan, media personality, player, coach, and probably my kindergarten teacher too that it will be a beat down, physical, slug fest. That part is true, no reason to think it won’t be. These 2 teams are the most physical in the NFL every year, hands down. The Chiefs couldn’t hang with the physical nature of the Ravens, and they lost. If there is one thing any Steelers or Ravens fan knows, it’s that their team is going to be the big, bad, bully on gameday. Punch you in the mouth and see if you can come back for more.
I think sometimes both teams play down to each other, and basically consent to the fact that it’s going to be close, tough game no matter what. Hesitant to risk making the “big mistake” that could cost them the game later on. Any other week as we saw this year, the Steeler offense is not afraid to open it up and go down field early and often. Take the last Cleveland game for example. Right out of the gate Ben is hitting Wallace for a long TD pass. They never looked back, pouring on the offense all game long, making certain that Cleveland entertained no thoughts of a comeback. Certainly you can’t compare the Browns to the Ravens, but you see where I’m going with this. Sure both defenses are tough, and can impose their will on you but that’s where you overcome doing what you have to do to succeed. The offenses have weapons but because it’s the “Steelers vs. Ravens” mentality, we don’t always see them used to their potential in these games.
The front 7’s are stoudt against the run and certainly more than able to turn up the pass rush. Running the ball against either team is not a way to make a living for 60 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. Sure you’ll break one now and then, or have a series where the run makes some positive yardage, but overall it’s not going to work for 60 minutes.
The way to go after either team is through the air, both the Steelers and Ravens have a secondary that can be exposed with the right plays and players. Heath Miller for the Steelers and Todd Heap are the ultimate weapons for their respective offenses. If you can’t run the ball, the next best thing is a short to intermediate passing game. That’s where the TightEnd’s can be deadly. We all know Ben’s outlet guy, his money target, is Heath. 99-100 times Miller Time is going to come down with the ball for a first down and more. Heap is a similar type player and has had effective games against the Steelers in the past. Neither team is particularly effective at stopping the Tight End. Baltimore perhaps is a little better at it but certainly not by a large margin.
The Steelers have all the speed in the world with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders. All 3 of those guys can certainly outrun most defensive backs in the game. Ben needs to get down field early and often, don’t be afraid to be great early on in the game. Go deep, spread out the Ravens, if it goes incomplete it’s not the end of the world. Worst case scenario if it gets picked off you can stop them on their side of the field and it’s no worse than a punt. Momentum is key in games like this, but sometimes taking a chance, even if you don’t succeed, opens up opportunities later on. With the officials calling games so tight these days it’s a good chance you’ll get an interference call at any given time. Ben has never had this many targets at his disposal on the field at the same time, use them and you just might find yourself with some big plays. I think we’re all smart enough to realize that there are times you don’t put the ball in the air against anyone and the coaches know that too. All I’m saying is, be smart about it, use your opportunities to your advantage, it just might pay off.
There is a 50% chance of snow on Saturday in Pittsburgh as of today, so the weather could play a part in any type of down field passing attack for both teams. If it does, then you know you’ve got what it takes to hang with and pull out a tough, physical, close game. Weather permitting, I say why not consider taking a chance on having a wide open offense early on. Put the Ravens on their heals and place the pressure squarely on their shoulders as they deal with not only the Steelers, but the Heinz Field 12th man!