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Steelers look to stop Ravens' vaunted rushing attack

(Photo by Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

The Steelers have allowed the Baltimore Ravens to rush for a combined 488 yards rushing in their last two meetings dating back to Week 17 of last year. In Week 8, the Steelers beat the Ravens, 28-24, but they allowed the Ravens to rush for 265 yards on 41 attempts, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

It's imperative that the Steelers defend the run better against Baltimore on Thursday night at Heinz Field, and all it really comes down to is just being more disciplined.

"It just comes down to everybody being sound, especially in their gaps," Cam Heyward said on Tuesday. "A couple times we got a little bit of 'cowboy' and did our own things. In this defense, especially against a team like that, that has so many reads and everybody has to be sound, if you make one mistake they can hit you running.

"We talk about it in the run and in the pass because if you don't have your rush lanes secure, (Ravens' quarterback Lamar Jackson) is going to beat you with his feet and he has a chance to take off and score that way, as well."

Jackson, who is the reigning league MVP has regressed this season, but he's still one of the most dangerous players in the league when he has the ball in his hands. Jackson hasn't fared well in his two career games against the Steelers as a starter. In those two games, Jackson has completed 32 of 56 passes (57.1%) for 369 yards, three touchdowns, five interceptions and has a quarterback rating of (57.8). Jackson has also been sacked nine times and lost two fumbles. His poor performances against the Steelers made one media member ask Butler whether they have his number. A notion that Butler scoffed at.

“No, we don’t have his number,” Butler said. “Dadgum, you kidding? He is a great football player. He was MVP last year. I don’t think anybody has his number.”

Butler said the biggest key to beating the Ravens and Jackson is forcing turnovers.

“We want to try and put him in as uncomfortable of situations as we can,” Butler said. “Our turnover-takeaway ratio is always big in terms of winning and losing. If you look at everybody in the league, you take a look at that one stat, might be as important as any other stat that you have. For us, if we can keep getting a turnover, it is always going to help us.”

With running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards ruled out for Thursday night's game due to testing positive for COVID-19, Gus Edwards will carry the load for Baltimore at running back. Edwards rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries (5.4 average) and had a touchdown against the Steelers in Week 8. Edwards also rushed for 130 yards on 21 carries (6.2 average) against Pittsburgh in Week 17 of last year.

"He can get downfield, he can make guys miss," T.J. Watt said of Edwards. "That is the number one thing with this offense, making guys miss especially at the second level. You have all of the misdirection stuff, all of the option, triple option, read-option stuff that allows guys to get on the second level. That is what gets the ball rolling.

"A guy like him can make the second level guys miss and that is where things get out of the gate. First and foremost, we have to be very disciplined and if anything does break down, we need to make sure we get him down."

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