Get To Ben Roethlisberger
Only three NFL teams have held Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a lower career quarterback rating than the Ravens. Much of Baltimore's success has been built around making Roethlisberger hold the ball too long and throw ill-fated passes. For example, in last year's 20-17 win over Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens sacked him three times and picked him off twice. Roethlisberger may be a little less mobile considering, if he plays, it will be his first game back from meniscus knee surgery. He's still a big, tough guy to bring down, however. The Ravens defense, now with Terrell Suggs back, needs to get to him early and often to make him feel uncomfortable.
The Patience Of Le'Veon Bell
Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has seen a lot of running backs in his 37 years of coaching football. This week, Pees said Bell is "one of the best backs I think I've ever gone up against." Bell has a very unique, patient style. He'll take his time getting to the line of scrimmage, then burst through a hole when it opens up. The Ravens' defensive front and linebackers have to be just as patient and make sure they're not leaving gaps open. Bell has averaged 75 yards per game in five career contests versus the Ravens. In his one meeting versus Baltimore last year, he ran 22 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens run defense was the best in the NFL before the New York Jets' Matt Forte put up 100 yards on it before the bye. Baltimore's proud unit is looking to reassert itself.
Limiting Antonio Brown … Again
The other head of the Steelers' three-headed offensive monster is wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is currently ninth in the NFL with 592 receiving yards. Perhaps the best receiver in the game, Brown has been relatively quiet versus the Ravens over the years. In 13 career games, he has averaged 65 yards per game and scored just one touchdown. Baltimore could opt to have top cornerback Jimmy Smith shadow Brown, but that's no guarantee. The Ravens have used a mixture of different coverages to try to throw Brown out of sync, but most importantly, they need to rally to tackle him so the shifty playmaker doesn't pull off any big-play escapes.
Does Marty Install Any Wrinkles?
A natural time to break out some new wrinkles is after a bye. Considering it's just Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's third game calling plays, there could be even more tricks up his sleeve. The Ravens have struggled to put the ball in the end zone, and could look for new options when they get close. Struggling to be "precise" in the passing game, the Ravens could deviate to make things easier or lean on their running attack. Quarterback Joe Flacco and his targets have put in extra time at practice this week, as well as three extra practices before taking the weekend off. The offense needs to look sharper than it did before the break.
Impact Of Injured Players' Return
The caveat to the Ravens' four-game losing streak is that it has coincided with injuries to some of the team's best players such as wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh) and Suggs (biceps). Now that all or most of those players are expected to be back on the field, it will be a chance to see whether the missing players were the problem or whether there are deeper-rooted issues.