Ravens need aggressive approach to beat Steelers on Saturday

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, left, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak talk during the game Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, left, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak talk during the game Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. (Nick Wass, Associated Press)

Once the Ravens got into the playoffs, there should have been a sigh of relief over at The Castle because all the pressure is gone.

So beginning Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Ravens should come out like the proverbial banshee in this postseason. They can borrow the phrases, "Let 'er Rip" or "Why Not Us?," and just turn it loose.


No one is picking the Ravens to go far in the playoffs. Why should they?

They had to back into the postseason with help from the Kansas City Chiefs to secure the last spot in the AFC on the final day of the regular season.


A lot of the Ravens fans feel the same way. They all show their support, but a lot of them say the team didn't earn or deserve a playoff spot. That's absurd because the Ravens won 10 games in a highly competitive league.

The disbelief, though, is understandable. The Ravens didn't distinguish themselves as a team to beat in the last three games as they barely won against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, and lost to the Houston Texans.

So here is a little advice to coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Gary Kubiak and Dean Pees: Be imaginative, creative and unchained.

In other words, as Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor once said, "go out there like a bunch of crazed dogs."

The somewhat conservative approach on offense the last four weeks was acceptable because the Ravens played Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Connor Shaw, not exactly the Murderers' Row of NFL quarterbacks.

Why beat yourself if they couldn't?

But in the "second season," the names change to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. And the first guy up is Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who runs the second-ranked offense in the NFL.

The Steelers are averaging 27.2 points, 411.1 total yards and 301.6 passing yards per game behind Roethlisberger, who has completed 408 of 608 passes for 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Regardless if running back Le'veon Bell plays or not, the Steelers have plenty of weapons in receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Heath Miller.

Now, Kubiak shouldn't panic as he has done in two other losses this season when the Ravens have gotten behind, but he should be prepared to play the Steelers like the Texans played the Ravens.

No page in the playbook should be left unturned. The Ravens probably will have to score 28 points to win, so Kubiak should have some flea-flickers, double reverses, hitch and options passes ready.

And throw in some shovel passes and misdirection running plays. Anything. The kitchen sink, too.


The Ravens also need to put a bullseye on the back of Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor's jersey. He's good for seven points whenever the Ravens play Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have a secondary that is ranked No. 27, three spots behind the Ravens.

Bombs away.

If you want to call this style reckless, so be it. It's probably the Ravens' best chance for winning.

On defense, Dean Pees should huddle with outside linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw.

If the Ravens have any chance of winning, these guys have to put constant pressure on Roethlisberger, but also cut down on the offsides and roughing-the-passer penalties. Discipline is needed.

Pees needs to challenge Dumervil and Suggs and point out that most of their sacks have come against bad teams. It's here, in the postseason, where they will establish a legacy.

Great players make great plays in the playoffs. If Suggs wants to be an eventual Hall of Famer, this is where he leaves his calling card because if Roethlisberger has time to throw, the Ravens will be beaten easily.

Pittsburgh should be the favorites in this game. The Steelers are at home and playing well. But in this rivalry, nothing matters except the present game.

Before this game, Harbaugh should huddle with his team and tell them they have nothing to lose.

In private, he should mention how even the Ravens fans booed them after their first offensive series last week, and then as they walked into the locker room at halftime. He should stress that being the underdogs is one of the greatest positions to be in sports.

In the previous three weeks, the Ravens have looked tight but they need to come out and play free and easy.

And after Harbaugh speaks, he should bring out that great orator, Joe Flacco, to deliver the same "just win" message again.

The Ravens can win, they just can't hold back. If they lose, so what, there is no tomorrow, just next season.


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