The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive system is relatively simple. The offense consists of power running plays, quick wide receiver screens, and bunch sets on passing downs. All of these plays are schematically easy to defend but there is one thing that makes the Steelers offense difficult to stop and that is the playmaking ability of Ben Roethlisberger.
There are highlights upon highlights of Big Ben running around in the backfield, breaking out of sure sacks, and finding a wide-open receiver for a backbreaking third down conversion or touchdown. He is arguably the best “backyard football” quarterback of all-time. There is literally nothing conventional about the way he plays.
But Ben is on the bench. Suffering from a sprained shoulder and rib injury incurred on a Monday Night sack, Roethlisberger will once again watch a Ravens-Steelers game from the sidelines. Byron Leftwich will be under center when the Steelers take the field on Sunday Night.
The Ravens have faced two Steelers backups in the Harbaugh era, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch, and defeated both in close games. With Dixon at the helm in 2009, the Steelers scored 17 points and accumulated 298 total yards, and in 2010 Batch led the Steelers to 14 points and 210 total yards. These numbers are far from impressive and the Ravens can duplicate this success by focusing on one thing – whoever is lined up in the Pittsburgh backfield.
It will be either Isaac Redman orJonathan Dwyer (never mind Rashard Mendenhall, who is questionable for the game.) Redman and Dwyer are tough runners. Neither back is gifted with game breaking speed, but they are both huge guys that run hard and break tackles. The Ravens cannot allow these two to run away from them on Sunday Night.
The Ravens have not been the best tacklers this season. The focus of this week’s preparations must be wrapping up and gang tackling these Steelers running backs. The Steelers will try to keep the ball out of Leftwich’s hands as much as possible. I would expect to see low risk wide receiver screens and runs on first and second down with the hopes of setting up manageable third down situations for the Steelers offense.
The Ravens know that their job is to stifle the Steelers on early downs to force Leftwich into third and long where they will be able to heat up the blitz. The Ravens must tackle well for this to take place.