Here’s a look at the key matchup and what’s at stake in Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Steelers, plus some thoughts on Pittsburgh’s offensive creativity.
Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward vs. Ravens guards Marshal Yanda and Bradley Bozeman and center Matt Skura. Heyward can single-handedly wreck a running game. Besides having good size, Heyward has exceptional quickness, which allows him to penetrate the offensive line quickly and interrupt running plays. The Steelers have moved him along the line of scrimmage and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him line up over Bozeman, the weaker of the two guards, more often. Heyward is tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 21, including 2½ sacks. A Yanda vs. Heyward battle will be interesting because Yanda can match Heyward’s skill and strength, but maybe not his quickness. Bozeman, in his second year, has progressed well since last season but is still stiff at times. Regardless, both guards will probably draw help from Skura on certain running plays. The addition of Skura should help cut off penetration and at least get Heyward off the line of scrimmage on initial contact.
What’s at stake
After losing to the Cleveland Browns last week, the Ravens need this win to stay in the AFC North race. A win would give the Ravens some much-needed confidence after the Browns handled them fairly easily, 40-25, last Sunday. Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-3, on Monday night for its first win of the season, and a victory against the Ravens would also keep the Steelers within striking distance of Cleveland. After playing Pittsburgh, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati the following week.
What’s on the radar
The Steelers are basically running the same offense with second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, but are also using a lot of trick plays and crazy formations. It’s clearly a sign they aren’t totally comfortable with Rudolph yet and don’t trust him to throw the ball all over the field. It’s all about being clever but patient as well. Against the Bengals on Monday night, Pittsburgh ran the Wildcat offense and a lot of options and reverses. The Steelers will come out with some more new stuff Sunday against the Ravens because they know, at this point, without regular starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, trick plays and deception are the best ways to manufacture offense.