TALE OF THE TAPE: Can Ravens Tame Pittsburgh’s “Wildcat” This Time?

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One offensive wrinkle the Baltimore Ravens may see on Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town is the wildcat package.

When the Ravens faced the Steelers last month, Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell’s plethora of direct snaps gave the Baltimore defense fits, and the Steelers won that battle.

On Sunday against the New York Jets, the Ravens defense again fell victim to the package, allowing wide receiver Josh Cribbs to gain 20 yards on five rush attempts, while also completing a pass for a first down.

Thursday night, it would benefit the Steelers if they implement a few Bell-led plays, as the wildcat has proved to work against the Ravens on multiple occasions this season.

Here’s a look at when it has worked against Baltimore.

In the first Ravens-Steelers matchup, the direct snaps to Bell got the Steelers offense going.

The Steelers have a wide receiver in motion as one of the options for Bell, who keeps the ball.

With perfect execution by the offensive line, the only player who can make an impact early in the play is Terrell Suggs, who whiffs on a tackle.

Bell is able to turn up field to the left and gain yardage before finally being taken down by the third level of Baltimore’s defense.

Later in the game, the Steelers use the same tactic.

Again the ball is snapped to Bell, who has a wide receiver in motion as an option. The receiver forces linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith to account for him, which gives Bell a chance to make a play.

The hesitation by the Baltimore defense allows the Pittsburgh offensive line to seal off every defender, giving Bell a running lane before he is finally tackled by Smith.

At this point, though, Bell had already picked up the first down.

The bottom line is that the direct snaps to Bell shouldn’t have overwhelmed the Ravens’ stout defense like they did. They were simple run plays up the middle, and Bell’s patience allowed him to wait until the defenders were sealed before taking off.

Expect similar plays to be used on Thursday night.

And if the Steelers are feeling even more creative, they could take a look at what the Jets did on Sunday.

With wide receiver Josh Cribbs receiving the direct snap in the following play, the Jets were able to catch cornerback Jimmy Smith off-guard.

Cribbs fakes the handoff to the running back and he has two options: run or pass.

Cribbs, the former college quarterback, was likely ecstatic at the opportunity to show off his arm, as Smith bit hard on the fake handoff, fully committing to the run, and completely abandoning quarterback Geno Smith.

Cribbs easily completes the pass for a 13-yard gain.

If the Steelers can catch the Ravens cornerbacks off-guard like the Jets were able to do, perhaps quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or one of the Steelers receivers will be receiving a pass from Bell on Thursday night.

The wildcat has led to problems for Baltimore’s defense this season, and it could be a key when the Ravens and Steelers go head-to-head on Thursday. Let’s hope the Ravens are able to keep the wildcat off the Thanksgiving menu, forcing Pittsburgh to abandon this “leftover” scheme like dried up turkey.

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