1. Rice the decoy
In Week One, Ray Rice was king of the jungle. He was a force in the passing game and running game, and the Pittsburgh defenders had a hard time keeping him contained.
One has to believe that legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will have a scheme to bottle up Rice. In a game like this, it’s quite possible that Rice could open things up for his offensive teammates.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should fake the ball to Rice on pitches and play-fakes, getting the Pittsburgh defense to move when he does. In addition, Rice should be in motion when the Ravens are in their open passing formations.
Depending on which defender shifts with Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco should be prepared to take advantage of the mismatch that is presented – either with Rice or another receiver.
2. Chip blocks and delay routes
Despite the fact that Lamar Woodley and James Harrison may not be on the field on Sunday night, the Baltimore coaches will need to prepare as if they will play. Finding a way to block these edge rushers is the key to beating the Pittsburgh defense.
The Ravens were able to accomplish this task in Week One. Harrison was mostly contained by single blocks from left tackle Bryant McKinnie. Meanwhile, Woodley encountered more double teams on the other side and got through just once against Michael Oher.
The game plan will need to be similar, although both rushers are a priority. With a two-tight, one back offense, the Ravens will have more flexibility to chip both linebackers, especially in obvious passing situation.
The Ravens use tight end Dennis Pitta – a better blocker than fellow tight end Ed Dickson – as a chipper and extra blocker when they line up in their shotgun set. Along with Rice, Flacco has two viable blockers and dump-off options in the passing game. Moreover, both of these players should be involved on delay routes and out routes, slipping out on patterns only after getting an initial hit on Harrison and Woodley.
3. Sugar “Ray” huddle
Call this offensive formation an ode to Ray Lewis’ nickname (“Sugar Ray”) but the key Ray will be Rice, not his defensive counterpart.
The hurry-up attack that the Ravens executed so well against Arizona should be incorporated in the offensive game plan against Pittsburgh. Although Flacco will have a greater challenge running this offense on the road, in a hostile environment, the fact that he has proven some level of prowess in this set is why it needs to be on display on Sunday night.
There are several advantages to running this type of attack. One, Flacco is comfortable operating from the gun. He gets rid of the ball quickly and that is a major key against the Steelers.
Also, using a quicker, “sugar” huddle might unsettle the Pittsburgh defense. Although this offense should not be used on every down – the Ravens should still line up in their power sets to run the ball– it should be executed in certain situations, especially when the offense needs to change up the tempo and establish a rhythm. It might also disrupt the Steelers sub package substitutions which could be more frequent given their injury situation.
1. Pollard at linebacker
With the return of safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, Bernard Pollard will have more opportunities to be an exclusive “box” player. Against a Pittsburgh offense that will spread out the Baltimore defense, having Pollard take the place of a linebacker and act in that role would be a good move to make.
After all, at 225-pounds, Pollard possesses a linebacker’s build and he is an outstanding form tackler. In nickel and dime packages, Pollard would be able to fill if the Steelers run the ball.
But his true asset could come as being a spy to monitor quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and to cover any receivers that run short, intermediate routes over the middle – such as Hines Ward.
Look for Pollard to be an active cog in defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s scheme.
2. Man coverage
- Tackling in space