Involve John Brown in the quick game
“Smokey” leads all NFL receivers with at least 30 targets in average depth per target (18.4). The Steelers were ripe for the picking a month ago as it pertains to downfield shots, but they’ve made several improvements since then. With Joe Haden’s resurgence, Mike Hilton’s return from injury and Sean Davis settling in at safety, the Steelers have managed to creep into the top 10 in yards per pass attempt allowed. Also factoring in that they’re tied for 2nd in the NFL in sacks and the Ravens have all types of offensive line concerns, going bombs away may not be the optimal approach.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t get Brown in advantageous spots to utilize his imposing speed. I expect Pittsburgh to give him a cushion. The Ravens can take advantage of with quick developing routes, comebacks and smoke screens. With how dangerous he’s proven to be with room to run it’s surprising we haven’t seen him utilized more on jet sweeps.
Giant bullseye on right corner
As much as the Steelers defense has improved over the last few weeks, they still having a glaring hole at right corner. Whether it’s the lineup yoyo — Artie Burns, Coty Sensabaugh or Cameron Sutton — it’s a situation where the Ravens should enjoy success. So much so that I’d line up Willie Snead or Chris Moore as sacrifices into Joe Haden’s coverage to give John Brown and Michael Crabtree as many chances as possible to run routes versus any of that trio.
Involve Ty Montgomery immediately
The Ravens made a solid addition at the trade deadline adding Ty Montgomery. This team was starved for an open field player of his ilk. Buck Allen lacks wiggle and doesn’t have the level of power to run through good tackling consistently. Alex Collins has both but his lack of comfort in pass game limits the amount routes you can send him out on. They’ve left a lot of points on the field in recent weeks due to their inability to create yards after the catch and their unimaginative play designs in obvious passing situations. Montgomery can run the full gauntlet of routes out of the backfield as well as split out to create matchups and/or reveal coverage. He could also unlock some interesting 2-back formations as well as add some more spice to Lamar Jackson packages. Montgomery could help solve a few of the Ravens biggest offensive ills and should be leaned on early.
The Ravens played a heavy amount of dime defense in their week 4 win over the Steelers. Since that game, Pittsburgh made a concerted effort to involve James Conner and he’s rewarded them handsomely to the tune of 5.7 yards per carry and 122 rushing yards per game. Despite that success, it’s not time to change course.
The Steelers still spend 64 percent of their snaps with 3 wide receivers on the field, per Sharp Football, and if you haven’t heard, two of them are Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster *shivers.* There’s also their seam vulnerability going up against the talented Vance McDonald. The Ravens will need Anthony Levine on the field as much as possible. They can make personnel adjustments to account for Conner. Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce only played two snaps together in that week 4 win, that’s a number that will obviously need to rise but much like in my Saints battle plans, I’d much rather be vulnerable to James Conner versus a top-tier run defense than to be vulnerable to Big Ben and his cast of receiving weapons.
Don’t sleep on Justin Hunter
Speaking of Ben’s cast of weapons, the Steelers have inserted a new/old one into the lineup. Pittsburgh has seemingly decided that James Washington isn’t ready for that field stretching 3rd receiver role so they’ve handed the reigns over to the former 2nd round pick out of Tennessee. At 6-foot-4 with 4.4 speed, Hunter still has the ability to make plays downfield. They had a couple missed opportunities in their week 8 win versus the Browns and I’m certain they’ll look to go back to that well if given the opportunity. It’s particularly concerning if Marlon Humphrey can’t suit up, leaving the deep speed vulnerable Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr duo who will rightfully have their sights set squarely on the dynamic Brown and Smith-Schuster. With that said it’ll be important to watch for the shot play to Hunter.
Don’t overreact to the lack of pressure
In the first game, the Ravens didn’t create much pressure on Big Ben. Of the edge players, Tim Williams probably applied the most pressure and he was seen in a walking boot on Wednesday. I’m not expecting a ton of pressure to be created but this doesn’t mean to go crazy with increased 5 and 6 man pressures. Be selective and creative but don’t overdo it.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Anthony Levine
It would be unfair to expect Levine to repeat his week 4 showing versus the Steelers. His anticipation and disguise gave Ben fits, almost single-handedly locking up one of the leagues best offenses on 3rd down throughout the 2nd half. Wink Martindale won’t be the stranger he was in the first matchup. Pittsburgh will no doubt be more prepared for Levine and the dime in this one but if Levine is able to trick Roethlisberger a few more times on Sunday it would bode well for the Ravens in what is essentially a must-win game.