Dev's battle plans: Ravens at Steelers

Every week, long time Ravens Insider site staffer and all-round Ravens guru Dev Panchwagh breaks down the Ravens' strategy for the upcoming game. This week the Ravens visit the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Monday Night nationally televised game.

Offensive Game Plan

1. Go long: In order to have a chance to score points against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens have to be able to convert explosive plays down the field. The Ravens have the potential to hit on some outside plays if quarterback Anthony Wright plays with patience and sees the field better than he has thus far this season. There have been too many times when Wright has dumped the ball off underneath to a back or a tight-end well short of the first down stick instead of taking a chance by throwing a deep strike. Against Pittsburgh, there will be opportunities to exploit single coverage down the field and Wright must capitalize on the opportunities.

2. Screens and Flares: The Ravens have yet to hit on any successful screen passes this season, although the plays have been setup perfectly at times. Wright just hasn't been able to throw the ball accurately to the back peeling out in the flat. With the Steelers' propensity to take chances by bringing extra defenders when employing a heavy blitz attack, Wright must do a better job of executing the screen or dump-off passes in the flat to his backs. Offensive coordinator Jim Fassel will likely sprinkle some pass plays to Chester Taylor and Jamal Lewis to slow down and potentially exploit the Steelers' rush. In addition, look for Derrick Mason to catch one or two quick hitting screen passes.

3. Three steps: The biggest key on Monday is to sustain plays. The offense has to stay on the field much longer than it has in previous games this year, so the defense can remain fresh when the fourth quarter approaches. One of the ways to gain positive yardage and convert critical third-downs is to use quicker hitting pass plays, especially on first and second-down. Wright should be put in a position to get rid of the ball quickly before the pocket collapses. Although the Ravens do need to stretch the field, they have a better chance of executing the deep passes off of play-action fakes and in second-and-short situations, while using the west passing scheme in other passing situations.

Defensive Game Plan

1. Different formations: Simply blitzing Roethlisberger will not disrupt the timing and rhythm of the Pittsburgh passing game because the coaches will have a good read on how to pick up the Ravens' blitzers. After all, almost every other offense has been able to block the Ravens' blitz attack with ease this season. What the Ravens have to do is a mix up their looks at the line of scrimmage so Roethlisberger and his lineman don't have a read on what they see. The Ravens have to be unpredictable. They have the versatility to align five lineman or four linebackers or seven defensive backs on any given play, so they should use these various formations to keep Roethlisberger off balance.

2. Stopping the Steelers on first-down: Pittsburgh dominates in the running game because they gain yards on first and second-down. In order to stymie the Steelers' powerful rush attack, Baltimore has to force Pittsburgh into more second and third-and-long conversion situations. The best way to accomplish this task is to give up no more than 2.0 yards per carry on first-down. In all likelihood, the Steelers will use Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis in tandem on first-down. Bettis usually rams the ball up the guy while Parker can work the edges or cut the ball back up the middle. Either way, the Ravens have to be ready and able to stop either back in obvious rushing situations or they will have trouble defending the Steelers all night long.

3. Taking proper angles and sure tackling: The Steeler receivers are very dangerous after the catch. Hines Ward is more of a power runner after the catch that can break and shed tacklers to gain yards in the open field. Antwan Randle-El uses his shiftiness and quickness to make defenders miss. Needless to say, the Raven defensive backs have to keep both of these receivers bottled up, especially in the open field. Tacklers have to play with discipline and use proper tackling technique to keep the Steeler receivers from gaining YAC on Monday night.

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Dev Panchwagh is a long-time member of the Ravens Insider staff.  Talk to him about this article on the RavensInsider message boards where he posts under the super-secret ID 'dev21'.


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