Keys to Victory for Steelers against Ravens
Matchup: Baltimore Ravens (6-4) +10.5 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
Time and place: 8:00 p.m. EST at Heinz Field on NBC
Tidbit: The Steelers will be wearing their all-black color rush uniforms against Baltimore. They're 5-1 all-time in these uniforms, including a thrilling 31-27 victory against the Ravens on Christmas in 2016, the first time the Steelers wore the color rush set.
KEY 1#: Snell ya later
It's no secret that COVID-related news is the dominant theme of this game. The Ravens will be without stars like quarterback Lamar Jackson and defensive lineman Calais Campbell while the Steelers will be missing running back James Conner.
It'll be the first time this season that the Steelers enter a game without Conner, though Snell does have experience as a featured back having rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries against the Giants in Week 1 when Conner went down with an injury.
Rookie Anthony McFarland will also get some looks with Conner out, but Snell will be the lead back, especially with the expectation that it will be a cold and wet night at Heinz Field.
Something Snell does well is run decisively. On this play he blows through the open hole, accelerates past the flat-footed defender at the second level, and finishes the run through multiple tacklers for a gain of 30 yards. Impressive rep from 24.
Snell also possesses some good wiggle in short space. Watch how he bounces the play outside after the linebacker plugs up the hole, dances to make a man miss, and falls forward for 6 yards on a play that could have been no gain.
It'll be fun to watch Snell tote the rock on Tuesday night.
KEY #2: Win WR-CB battles
A fun aspect of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is seeing Pittsburgh's skilled receiving corps go up against Baltimore's corners. The Ravens like to play a lot of man to man and Cover 3, leaving receivers on islands to make plays. Because Baltimore's corners are so physical and talented, this scheme works for them, but it also leaves them susceptible to big plays, especially against Marcus Peters who is a risk-taker in coverage.
The Steelers left several big plays on the board when these teams matched up in Week 8. On this play, you can see the Ravens are in man-free coverage. Everyone is matched up 1 on 1 with the free safety playing centerfield over the top. Roethlisberger handles the snap, quickly holds the safety toward the middle of the field with his eyes, and comes back to Chase Claypool who is breaking free of Peters. Roethlisberger releases the pass just as Pernell Mcphee (who is out on Tuesday) gets to him and leaves it just short for Claypool, who probably should have caught it anyway.
These are the types of plays that can make the difference in a Steelers vs. Ravens game. Given the compromised roster the Ravens will be playing with, capitalizing on splash plays in these situations could help distance Pittsburgh in this contest.
KEY #3: Make RGIII be a passer
The last time Robert Griffin III made an NFL start was actually Week 17 of last season against the Steelers. Griffin was 11 for 21 for 96 yards and an interception and ran for 50 yards on 8 carries in a 28-10 win. While RGIII obviously isn't Lamar, he's a capable backup who possesses some similar traits to Jackson.
Here Griffin fakes the option to Gus Edwards, Vince Williams and Cam Heyward bite, and Griffin bounces it outside for 9 yards. At the very least, the Ravens don't have to completely alter their offense to accommodate Griffin.
That said, he isn't going to beat you with his arm. On this play, he throws it behind an open receiver running a deep slant. If the Steelers can set the edge in the run game and pressure Griffin, they should be able to force errant throws.
KEY #4 : Halt the Gus Bus
With J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram down, Gus Edwards will be the lead back for the Ravens against Pittsburgh. Edwards had success against the Steelers in Week 7, going for 87 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He thrived running through the Steelers interior with Tyson Alualu out for that game. Alualu will play in this edition, though Stephon Tuitt will be out, which means it will take a group effort to slow down Baltimore's rushing attack.
Here's an example of a good pursuit and tackle by Robert Spillane on an outside zone run.