The Pittsburgh Steelers need to find a way to get their sputtering offense on track, provide some confidence for their embattled offensive coordinator, and patch a leaky defense that just got roughed up by a rookie quarterback, while hosting former MVP Lamar Jackson and a new-look Baltimore Ravens offense that is currently in first place in the AFC North.
It’s a daunting task, but it’s one the Steelers have faced many times under Mike Tomlin, and winning games like this one is one of the big reasons he’s probably the most consistent head coach in modern NFL history.
How can they do it? Let’s break it down.
KEY TO VICTORY: Run the damn ball.
The Steelers beat the Ravens last winter, and in fact, beat six of their final seven opponents in the 2023 season mostly with an opportunistic passing offense and a reliance on running the football. From the bye week on, the Steelers averaged 34.4 rush attempts per game, and averaged 4.2 yards per attempt.
So far this season, they’ve averaged 21.8 yards per rushing attempt and 3.6 yards per carry. Some of the Steelers not running the ball has been a result of them falling behind by multi-score margins in two of the first four games they’ve played. But they have to find a way to get the running game going in order to put struggling and hobbled quarterback Kenny Pickett in the best possible positions to succeed.
OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: Mark Andrews vs. ???
Last week, Houston Texans tight end Dalton Schultz caught three of three targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. With due respect to Schultz, Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews is a far more dangerous player. The Steelers used to put Terrell Edmunds, one of the best tight end-erasing strong safeties in the league, on Andrews, and even then, he has averaged 48.9 yards per game against the Steelers. They’ll have to find a way to minimize Andrews in a Baltimore scheme that seems a lot more attuned to the passing game in 2023.
BOLD PREDICTION: Kenny Gets It
Kenny Pickett has had a miserable second season. He’s hurt, playing through a bone bruise on his left knee and a left calf strain. His completion percentage, passer rating and QBR are all down from 2022, with his QB bottoming from 53.6 to 29.4
But Pickett has elite competitiveness and leadership. Those intangible skills are going to be required for the Steelers to find a gut-check win against the Ravens and turn their season around. With his mobility limited, Pickett can focus in on what he should and shouldn’t be doing in the pocket and the simplifaction might be a blessing in disguise.
So for our bold prediction, we’ll say that Pickett will not throw an interception against a Ravens secondary that can certainly be picked apart.
Steelers 19, Ravens 16
Last week: Steelers 27-13 (L)
PICK IT Betway Sportsbook Promo
Steelers +4.5 (-105)
Under 38 (-112)
Najee Harris over 13.5 rushing attempts (-120)
Last week: 1-2 (W Under 41.5; L Steelers -3, Dameon Pierce under 47.5 rushing yards)
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