Can the Ravens dominant run defense stop Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell?
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf for at least 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers are turning to Michael Vick at quarterback. As we discussed yesterday, the turnover prone Vick is well past his prime at this point and shouldn’t be asked to throw much going forward.
The absence of Roethlisberger, who has ranked as the NFL’s top quarterback by Pro Football Focus through three weeks, is obviously good news for the Ravens as they seek their first win of the season tonight. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to come easy.
The Steelers still have arguably the NFL’s best running back, and probably the best dual threat back in Le’Veon Bell. Fresh off a two game suspension to start the 2015 season, Bell racked up 132 yards and a touchdown last week against the Rams and their top rated run defense.
Now Bell returns home to face the Baltimore Ravens and their 4th ranked run defense. The Ravens limited Bengals’ backs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard to a mere 2.8 yards per carry in week 3. No team has rushed for over 100 yards against the Ravens so far this season.
In addition to a run heavy offense, the Steelers figure to also rely on the underneath passing game to slow down the Ravens’ pass rush and avoid turnovers. Bell is an excellent fit as a back who excels as a pass catcher, having racked up 1,323 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air across 2 1/4 seasons.
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Bell’s prominence in the passing game means that the Ravens’ linebackers will have their work cut out for them as well. The good news is, they appear to be up to the challenge. Both starting inside ‘backers, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith, are excellent in coverage.
No matter how you slice it, Le’Veon Bell will be the face of this offense as long as Ben Roethlisberger is out, and probably even when he’s back. The Steelers have never been afraid to feed Bell a heavy workload, and he has always proven that he can handle it.
The biggest question is, can the Ravens step up and stop him? If they do, or at least limit him to a less-than-stellar game, victory could very well be in their grasp. If not, Ravens fans are in for another long night.
Next: Ravens: Doomed to failure in 2015?