November 2, 2007

Hide Your Valuables...Here Come The Ravens....

"The ability to stay singularly focused on what’s in front of you is what’s going to define you in terms of greatness...Stay focused on where you are. Appreciate the journey. If you do that, and do a good enough job of it, then it will take you where you want to go."
And as they say, "it's on like Donkey Kong." Now that we've had a chance to take a look at where the Ravens are on either side of the ball (not to mention in the Special Teams and female emotional support categories), it's only fitting that we have this little chat about what the Steelers need to do to address the challenges Baltimore presents...besides keeping that hefty Ravens roster of felons from causing any permanent damage to the 'Burgh, that goes without saying.

So let's get right down to it.

OFFENSE
How do you move the ball on a team that looks like you do on Defense? Easy, know thyself. Plus, Baltimore has plenty of consistent tendencies that we should have picked up on by now. Basically, they're going to blitz, then blitz some more to try and knock Ben down, thus preventing him from making a play. So to combat this, the Steelers have to...
  • Have a diverse game plan: Unfortunately, this appears to be a foreign concept to Bruce Arians...and also, ummm...did he say Ed Reed is better than Troy Polamalu? Mental note: Next time you see Bruce Arians, kick his ass. Anywho...If the Ravens want to bring pressure, the Steelers need to make like Pittsburgh West did against US, and play small ball. Swing passes, quick slants. Speed. But with an equal mixture of run and pass. Keep them on their toes. Eventually it will either A. Wear them down or B. Force them to drop into coverage and allow FWP the breathing room he needs to have a big game. Which leads me to my next point...

  • Offensive line must not fold like lawn chair: You know, I was actually going to title this post "Kendall Simmons, You've Been Warned...," but then DC Steeler Nation beat me to it. Nonetheless - Absolutely, hands down, no doubt about it, the #1 thing to watch on Monday is how that sorry excuse for an offensive line plays. Specifically the right side of the line...Kendall Simmons, ahem ahem. The Steelers have yet to run into a Defense as good or as relentless as the Ravens, and one thing is for sure - If those assholes up front don't hold their blocks, we won't be running the ball too much and Ben is going to spend the whole game scrambling in and around the pocket in a desperate attempt to make a play (ala many other times this season). This simply can't happen against the Ravens. Offensive Line must be strong like bull...case closed.

  • Heath. Miller. Touchdown: That's right, what better way to mix things up than getting the tight ends involved? We certainly have done this already this season and it should not stop now. Two tight end sets should be used, not only for blocking reasons, but also as quick reads for Ben. The more we hit Miller and Spaeth, the more the Ravens have to account for them when they're on the field and the less attention they can pay to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes on the outside. Get Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth into the mix, Arians!

  • Stay away from Ed Reed: Final thought. Big Ben, this one's for you. If you see Ed Reed in coverage, and he probably won't be alone (see Dre Bly and/or Adrian Wilson), do not force the ball into a bad spot. We still can not afford to turn the ball over. Plain. and. simple....offensive keys, done.
DEFENSE
Heeeeeee'sssss baaaaaaaaccccckkkkkk...Yep, Steeler Assassin Steve McNair is expected to play Monday night. Greeaaaaaattttt...So to go along with the artful legwork of Willis McGahee, Baltimore may have a little more threatening passing offense than one might have previously thought. This just adds another dimension to the preparation Mike Tomlin was all too happy to assure us would happen this week. With that, the Steelers have to...
  • Play the run: I cannot stress this enough. Unlike some of the other teams we've faced that have a little more balance in their offense, the Ravens best offensive weapon is halfback Willis McGahee, and to a lesser degree fullback Musa Smith. As I may have mentioned once or twice yesterday, McGahee is the leagues #3 rusher. He's not having 200 yard games, but week in and week out he's registering enough yards to allow the Ravens to move the ball. Shut him down and the options begin to get dicey...let me explain...

  • Cover Derrick Mason: Because frankly, who else is there for McNair to throw to? So far in 2007, Mason has grabbed 56 of Steve McNair's 103 completed passes for 529 yards. No other Ravens receiver has caught more than 20...including Todd Heap. Mason may be the NFL equivalent of 65 years old, but he's a Hines Ward type - catch anything you throw his way, and the Steelers must make sure they contain him. No rocket science here, just cover...Ike Taylor, I'm looking in your direction.

  • Blitz the shit out of them: Most of the time my mantra is - there ain't nothing wrong with a little bump and grind...er pressure on the QB. And this week I feel the same way. With less to worry about on the outside, the Steelers should have the pleasure of being able to bring a decent amount of large men to chase down "Air" McNair. Don't shy away from it early, LeBeau. Let the feeling take you. But in all seriousness, if we're going to do this, we better start early. Because if the Ravens start to get the offense going, it'll be a hell of a lot harder to get to McNair. The one thing to be aware of is the Ravens should have the mammoth Jonathan Ogden back at left tackle this week. Watch out for his sumo leg drop, I hear it's killer.
SPECIAL TEAMS
I'm sorry I even have to include this. But with the way our special teams have been covering kicks, I'd be remiss if I did not. One simple job - don't let them run back our kicks for large chunks of yardage. You have one job, don't screw it up. No penalties either. There's nothing worse than penalties on special teams...except maybe untimely turnovers...

INJURY REPORT
For the Steelers, it looks like Superman, Anthony Smith will be starting in place of Ryan Clark yet again this week, which is pretty darn awesome. However, Aaron Smith and Jerame Tuman did not practice this week. So all signs point to them not playing on Monday. No Smith = no good.

Conversely, Brian Billick, Head Swinging Dick over at the Ravens camp, has decreed that all players listed as questionable will play on Monday except possibly Tood Heap and Chris McAllister. This includes McNair and Ogden(as mentioned), as well as Adam Terry, Trevor Pryce, Samari Rolle, and Mike Flynn. And when Brian Billick speaks, you better damn well listen...

So that does it for this week's "keys" to victory, Stiller fans. Keep in mind, there are many other things we also need to be doing this Monday...mainly the usual - control the clock, control the game, save the cheerleader, save the world BS. But the aforementioned are just a few things I think in particular we'd be apt to keep in mind.

And just because I enjoyed it, I'll leave you with what the Ravens "Mad Backer" Bart Scott had to say about Big Ben --
"I remember my first game on Monday Night Football, Halloween [in 2005]. I came through and he kind of stiff-armed me and got the ball off anyway.
Big Ben - 6'5", 240 pounds
Mad Backer - 6'2", 240 pounds

Use me.

Ballhype: hype it up!

1 comment:

Tobiathan said...

Ya know, Big Bart has a point: Ben has THE meanest stiff-arm of anybody in the League, hands down. Be it running back, wideout TE or otherwise nobody stiff-arms like our QB. The kid is impressive.

And, after reading the SI article on Ben and former Miami(Ohio) coach Terry Hoepner(deceased, rest his soul) I believe our boy has experienced a growth moment in his life. His comments to the press are more tempered. He sounds more determined and less overconfident, and has a genuinely solid reason to excel this season in the form of the promise he made to his late college coach, who he made a pact with about returning to form despite physical setbacks. Unfortunatelt the coach(Hoepner) didn't make it but Ben did and he has a lot of motivation to maintain his game.

The Steelers are up against our biggest adversaries these last couple years on Monday. Since Cotter nailed most of the talking pooints i'll just say "Yeah!" and leave it at that.

Go Stillers!