1.) Max Protect: In the first match-up between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Ravens did an excellent job of keeping quarterback Anthony Wright clean. The line and extra blockers (backs and tight ends) picked up the Steelers’ blitz attack flawlessly. The Ravens used sound protection schemes like keeping six or seven blockers inside or sliding the line in order to block the extra defenders that Pittsburgh brought in passing situations. The Ravens will need to protect just as well against Pittsburgh in the rematch, although there is a chance that because Baltimore used so many maximum protection packages that Pittsburgh may counter by using more zone blitzes.
2.) Running the ball out of the spread formation: When the Ravens do spread the field using three or four-receiver alignments, they should use these packages to open up running lanes for Chester Taylor, Musa Smith or Jamal Lewis. With the linebackers forced to leave their positions near the middle to cover receivers flanked on the outside of the tackle box, there will be more room for Lewis and the other backs to navigate than they are normally accustomed to when they run the ball out of a base power formation. In addition, running the ball out of the spread formation in long-distance conversion situations is a good way to exploit a potentially aggressive Pittsburgh blitz attack.
3.) Dump offs and screens: To their credit, the offensive coaching staff has tried to establish some semblance of a screen passing game this season; it’s just that the plays they have employed haven’t worked due to poor execution or poor play-calling. That said, it will be key for the backs to be a factor in the passing game if the Ravens want to manage any offensive rhythm. Chester Taylor especially should be looked at as a primary option coming out of the backfield.
1.) Baiting Maddox: With quarterback Tommy Maddox at the helm of the Pittsburgh attack as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are much more likely to use a safer offensive game-plan. Maddox will not be trusted to throw the ball around 30 times as Roethlisberger did against the Ravens on Halloween. With that thought in mind, the Ravens will need to take advantage of the few times that Maddox does attempt a pass by flooding the zones to force him to throw the ball into tight coverage. Maddox tends to force passes into double coverage instead of simply getting rid of the football or throwing to a check down option. Even though the Ravens have yet to quench their turnover thirst, they still have the playmakers and scheme to force a pick or two.
2.) Getting off the field: In order to stay fresh, the defense needs to be able to get off the field on third-down. The offense has been unable to help the defense in any way in the time of possession category, so it is completely up to the defense to help themselves out by forcing more three-and-outs. Against a Maddox led Pittsburgh attack, the opportunities to execute this strategy should be plentiful, especially if the Ravens can stuff Pittsburgh’s rushing attack on first-down.
3.) McAlister’s head check: McAlister has been in a slump the past two Sundays, but he has a chance to redeem himself against Hines Ward. Ward usually does a nice job of getting in McAlister’s head to force McAlister to play outside of his game. In fact, Ward was able to take advantage of the cushions that McAlister provided in coverage in the last battle between the two sides. It is time for No.21 to start playing at the Pro-Bowl level that he so physically capable of.
One-on-one Match-up to Watch: Casey Hampton versus Mike Flynn