To win in Pittsburgh, Ravens should “Run Ray Rice Right”

As we head into what is sure to be another night of smash mouth football when the Ravens go to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, I have what I think is the perfect battle plan. It’s a pretty simple plan but to make it even catchier I’ve used some alliteration. Are you ready? Here it is, for the Ravens to have success on offense on Sunday, they need to Run Ray Rice Right.

It sounds simple, and in truth it is, but there’s more than one reason for that. Reason one is that fact that the Ravens have the best right guard in football in Marshal Yanda. And if that’s not reason enough, add in the fact that the Steelers have, at left end, Pro Football Focus’ second worst rated 3-4 defensive end so far this season in Ziggy Hood.

On Monday Night Football this week, the Kansas City Chiefs averaged 6.2 yards per carry on the 5 runs between the right guard and right tackle, and 5.0 yards per carry on the 3 runs off right tackle. The week before, the New York Giants ran off right tackle to the tune of 5.2 yards per carry. In fact, in each of their last four games, the Steelers’ opponents have averaged at least 4 yards per carry either between right guard and right tackle, or off right tackle. The fact is, the Steelers just aren’t stopping the run consistently on that side.

Coming into this season we were told how Hood had rededicated himself to get into better football shape and how Pittsburgh expected big things from him. That simply hasn’t happened and when you mention this, the response from Steelers’ fans seems to be that they think he’s doing a great job and that it’s all down to his assignment. Unless that assignment is being beaten consistently, rarely generating any pressure, and doing little to even stand up your blocker in the running game, I’m struggling to see how he can be doing anything well.

On the field for 281 snaps as a pass rusher, Hood has registered six total pressures and has batted two passes. That works out at some form of disruption being registered 2.8% of the time he rushes the passer. On the other 97.2% I’m assuming he is simply fulfilling that “assignment” again. That’s not the be all and end all of life for a 3-4 defensive end of course, and some make up for their lack of success as pass rushers with stellar play against the run. Mike DeVito of the Jets and Jarvis Jenkins of the Redskins spring to mind as guys who get it done against the run.

Only Hood doesn’t do it against the run either. With nine solo tackles against the run in the Steelers’ nine games, and only seven resulting in a defensive stop, there’s not a lot of numbers to back up any notion that Hood is getting the job done.

The Steelers defense has plenty of talented players and, as always, this is likely to be a game that comes down to the wire. But if the Ravens want to find success early and often, I think they just need to follow the plan with those four simple words.

Run Ray Rice Right.

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