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By: CJ Lester, @CJLester58
SteelerNation.com

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 6-0 and the lone undefeated team in the NFL. The Steelers held on last week to beat the Tennessee Titans 27-24. The Steelers went up 27-7 with around 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter of the game. The Titans stayed in the game and climbed their way back into it before missing a late 4th quarter field goal to tie the game and potentially send the game to overtime. The Steelers left Nashville with another win under their belt and week in and week out, that is all that matters! A win is a win! This week, the Steelers take on the (5-1) Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. This is an AFC North 5-star matchup and we all know how these matchups can go. Before we take a deeper look into this week’s matchup, let’s review last week’s matchup against the Titans.

 

Last week in review

The three things I noted that we should keep an eye on last week were:

 

  1. The Immovable Object Collides with the Unstoppable Force

The Steelers defense was tasked with minimizing the impact that Derrick Henry could have on the game last week. The week prior, the Titans running back ran for over 200 yards against the Houston Texans. Henry is a running back that can completely take over a game and dominate, especially as a game goes on. The Steelers defense did a great job containing what Henry could do. There were seven plays that the Steelers defense stopped the NFL’s leading rusher for no gain or a loss of yardage. More importantly, the Steelers offense opened the game up with a touchdown drive that lasted over 9 minutes. It was obvious that the Steelers were going to try to control the game’s time of possession to keep the ball out of Henry’s hands — which they did for the rest of the game for the most part. The Steelers had the ball for over 36 minutes of the game. Henry finished with 20 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. The team took a 20-point lead with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, before eventually allowing the Titans to get back into the game. Henry could have done a lot more damage if the game was closer early on.

 

  1. Next Man Up: ILB Robert Spillane and Cam Sutton

The next man up mentality is something that is very important to every NFL team in a season unforeseen like this one. Last week, ILB Robert Spillane and CB Cameron Sutton filled in for two very important members of this Steelers defense last week. Spillane finished the game with 3 total tackles, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Spillane did a great job communicating assignments with rest of the defense. The most impressive play of Spillane’s afternoon came in the 4th quarter. He, along with a little help from OLB TJ Watt, stopped Henry from scoring on a 3rd and goal from the Steelers’ 1-yard line. It was very impressive to see Spillane display aggressiveness against the 250-pound running back coming full speed up the middle. Sutton did an excellent job filling in for injured nickel corner Mike Hilton. Sutton finished with 4 tackles and batting down two passes.

  1. Don’t Bite on the Play Action!

With the defense being focused on containing the run game and Henry, the Steelers defense needed to be disciplined enough to contain Henry, while not getting too aggressive to avoid biting on play action passes. The Steelers were dominating the Titans early on, but with about 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Titans scored on a 2-play, 75-yard drive. The 2 plays on that scoring drive that shifted momentum to the Titans were a 2-yard run up the middle with Henry and then the very next play, the Titans ran a play action pass in which the Steelers got caught keying on the run and WR AJ Brown scored on a 73- yard touchdown pass. Other than this sequence of plays, the Steelers defense did an excellent job staying disciplined in the play action pass game.

 

Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for in Week 8 against the Ravens:

 

  1. Contain Lamar Jackson

We all know how dynamic Ravens QB Lamar Jackson can be with the ball in his hands. Jackson leads the Ravens in rushing yards with 50 carries, 346 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jackson does an excellent job extending plays by avoiding the first pass rusher to him. The Steelers defense must stay disciplined in their rush lanes to avoid allowing Jackson out of the pocket. The Steelers defense ranks first in sacks, but the biggest challenge this week will be making sure to take Jackson down on an initial contact. As dynamic of a pass rushing unit the Steelers have, Jackson can still make a defender miss and make plays. OLB’s Bud Dupree and TJ Watt will have their work cut out for them to set the edge, while also putting pressure on Jackson. This will be a big game for the inside guys like Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu if the Steelers defense can keep Jackson inside the pocket.

 

  1. Blitz Pick Up Against the Ravens’ Defense

The Ravens’ defense ranks 3rd in the NFL in how frequently they blitz. The Ravens blitz on 47% of their defensive snaps. With the Ravens blitzing on a very high percentage of defensive snaps, it will be important for the Steelers offense to identify which defenders are coming. The biggest matchup to watch for is how the Steelers running backs will pick up a free man. The Ravens will bring 5-6 rushers at times and if the Steelers can successfully pick up blitzes, look for QB Ben Roethlisberger to take full advantage by taking chances down the field. This season, against the blitz, Roethlisberger has looked to get the ball out quickly to his playmakers, but this week will be different due to the high percentage of snaps the Ravens blitz. Roethlisberger has done well against the blitz this year possessing the NFL’s 6th best passer rating and the 4th highest completion percentage against the blitz.

 

  1. Jump Out to an Early Lead and Keep the Foot on the Gas

The Steelers have to do a better job of closing out games and avoid letting teams stay competitive late into the game. Last week, the Steelers had a 20-point lead against the Titans before the Titans eventually missed a late 4th quarter potential game-tying field goal. As dominant as the Steelers were early in the game, they allowed the Titans to stay in the game starting in the second half. This week, it is so much more important to jump out to an early lead and force Jackson to throw the football to get back into the game.  Jackson is just too dynamic of a player while running the football, if the team can jump out to an early lead, it will minimize the amount of designed QB runs the Ravens utilize so well. The team has to keep their foot on the gas if they are able to jump out early. The Ravens offense is just too explosive to allow them to stick around.

 

What do you think, Steeler Nation? What should we watch for in Week 8 against the Ravens? Sound off in the comment section below, on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

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Just a Steelers fan wanting to discuss Steelers topics! #HereWeGo! Check out my Twitter account @CJLester58 #SteelerNation

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