In order to beat the New England Patriots, Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 50 times. Everyone knows that formula must be reversed against Baltimore. In order to beat the Ravens, the Steelers need to run more often and do so more successfully.
"Ultimately, it comes down to whoever rushes better against each other is usually the winner in this series," said Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks, a veteran of the Steelers-Ravens wars but not that opening-day bloodletting this season.
"You can look at the team that has the most rushing yards [as the one that] usually wins."
That sounds good in theory, but it's not true. The team that has piled up more yards rushing in the past two seasons, lost more often. In the five games the teams played in 2009 and '10, the team with the higher run yardage lost three of them.
Things reverted to the kind of form generally associated with this series when Baltimore outrushed the Steelers, 170-66, in the opener and ran away with a 35-7 victory.
The Steelers, however, were running the ball reasonably well in the first half with 60 yards on 10 carries. Even though they trailed, 21-7, that ground game did well enough that they tried it again on the first play of the second half.
Ben Roethlsiberger took the snap, tried to hand off to Rashard Mendenhall and both met Haloti Ngata in the backfield. Baltimore recovered the fumble from that collision and, on the next play, Joe Flacco threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ray Rice. Baltimore 29, Steelers 7.
"Dang, first time we played them we were running the ball this good and then we had the miscommunication coming out of halftime," coordinator Bruce Arians recalled Thursday. "The play we ran was the same play we ran for 8 or 9 yards early -- fumble and game's over. Those are the kinds of errors we just can't have."
It was one of seven turnovers by the Steelers that day, none for the Ravens.
But the Steelers believe they can run Sunday night, even though they have done less and with less effectiveness against most everybody this season.
"The running game is very important," Starks said. "When you get one-dimensional and passing all over the place, that's when the game gets tough. I think our personnel matches up very well against their defensive front seven to accommodate that and establish the run in this game."
Arians said striking a balance is more important against Baltimore than merely establishing the run.
"When you play a defense as good as these guys, you can't get one dimensional on either phase," Arians said. "If you're going to try running it, they're going to stuff you. If you're going to try to throw it every down, they'll get you. They pride themselves, as we do, on their great third-down defense."