Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 3 keys for Wednesday
2. The defense has to get off the field on third downs:
Time of possession is going to be the most important statistic of the afternoon. Think about how depleted the Ravens are upfront defensively. The Ravens don’t have Matt Judon, Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams (injury), and Jihad Ward. Baltimore will also be without Pernell McPhee and Justin Madubuike. The defense may be capable of a strong stand. It’s not capable of lasting in a battle of endurance.
The goal of the Pittsburgh Steelers should be to give the Ravens a death by 1,000 cuts. The more plays they can reel off, the better it will be for them. The Baltimore Ravens come into this game with many questions about their ability to finish a game. This is a spot where the Ravens have to dig down deep from the start. Getting off to a good start defensively won’t just give Baltimore confidence, it will preserve the stamina of the defense.
Ideally, the Ravens run game works and they can play a high-priced game of keep away. A perfect world for the defense sees their offense hold the ball for 36 minutes or more of the game clock. That ideal world isn’t going to happen. The defense has to play sharp. That means no penalties that extend drives, and constantly thinking situational football.
The only thing that Don Martindale’s unit can control is getting off the field on third downs. This is especially crucial in the beginning. The Ravens must keep their legs fresh as long as much as they can.
The Ravens don’t have the resources that the Steelers do. This can be a game, but it needs to be a proficiently attacked game. Every extra play the Steelers can get on offense is a weapon against the Ravens. Pittsburgh may see blood in the water and think about winning this one big and coming out fast. Their best approach though would be to methodically tear down Baltimore’s stamina.