The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh this Sunday to take on the rival Steelers in what I think is the most important game of the week. Not just for the great rivalry, but for the playoff implications of this early season match up.
Some are surprised the Steelers are 3-0; I'm not. They have a fantastic defense, and even having gone four deep on their QB chart, they have a solid squad and are very well-coached (Frankly, I think Ben Roethlisberger is overrated.)
While they have only played one team we might see in the playoffs (Atlanta has the best chance), they did win two road games in a row.
Now the Ravens come in to town with one loss, a disappointing offensive effort against the Bengals.
This game will be as advertised, a physical, smash-mouth defensive struggle. Here are three things the Ravens must do to come out of Pittsburgh with a win and grab a share of the AFC North lead.
Keep It Basic
The only way to take on a great defense is to do exactly what the Browns did to the Ravens last week, which is play a basic brand of hard, physical offense. The Ravens need to get the running game going between the tackles. They need to keep the passing game short, using high percentage screens, slants, and short outs.
This strategy will accomplish what they need, which is to wear the Steelers down, keep control of the ball and the clock, and open up the opportunity for the big play. Ray Rice might break one of those tough runs for a big gain. Short passes and the running game with good time of possession will open up a couple of chances to go down field.
The Ravens have a minus-six turnover ratio through three games this season. While it doesn't appear they need to worry about turning the ball over to the Steelers, who are plus-six, but have not scored many points off turnovers, in order to beat the Steelers, they may need points off a turnover.
Certainly turnovers will help create the time of possession advantage they need as well.
Special Special Teams
I think this game comes down to special teams play—the winner of the game will be the team that scores points on a kick or punt return, or the team that blocks a punt or field goal attempt.
The Steelers have already won one game this way. I don't see their offense doing anything against the Ravens, and I give the Steelers the same respect. The Ravens will need to make sure they don't allow the Steelers an opportunity for the big special teams play.
While the Ravens need to give the Steelers a lot of respect, looking back at the games they have played and the teams they have beaten, this is a very winnable game for the Purple and Black. They will need to stick to a simple game plan and create some turnovers or some points off special teams to ensure they keep up in the AFC North.
Paul is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report
He also has a personal blog at paulstagg.com
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