More than halfway through the season, the Ravens have issues in their secondary and have yet to have a pair of safeties emerge from the pack.
After seeing the secondary give up 340 passing yards and a whopping six touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on Sunday, Head Coach John Harbaugh challenged the unit to step up.
"You want to play in that secondary?" Harbaugh said. "Step up and practice and play well and step up in the games and make plays and be in the right spot. That's what we're looking for guys to do."
Harbaugh gave a very straight-forward assessment of the team's current safeties: Darian Stewart, Matt Elam, Will Hill, Jeromy Miles, Brynden Trawick, Anthony Levine and rookie Terrence Brooks.
"Guys have played OK at times, well at other times," Harbaugh said. "There have been a few bad plays back there."
Those players have all rotated into the lineup on defense. On Sunday night, the Ravens tried to narrow the snaps down to mostly Stewart and Hill.
Stewart played all 69 defensive snaps while Hill was in for 60 (87 percent). Elam played 39 percent of the snaps (both at safety and No. 3 corner) and Miles was at nine percent. Brooks was inactive for the second time this season.
Still, results weren't good. Harbaugh was asked whether he would like to find two definite starters.
"The best players play, to me, and the best players are the players that are playing the best," Harbaugh said. "So when some player expresses himself as the best player by how he plays, he'll be out there permanently. Until that happens, nobody is given anything."
Brooks was in coverage on the 53-yard completion to Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu late in the fourth quarter last week, which played a large part in Cincinnati's win. It may have played into not dressing Sunday against the Steelers.
The Ravens safeties had more mistakes on Sunday. Harbaugh said there were two plays with coverage busts where players were in the wrong spot because they weren't on the same page. There were three times when Baltimore "just got beat physically," Harbaugh said.
"Those are bad things. That's a good [Steelers receivers] group, but we're capable of covering them," he added.
"We've got to look at what we're doing scheme-wise, and look at what we're doing technique-wise. We've got to play better technique. We're not disciplined back there in technique like we need to be. Our eyes are not in the right spot all the time like they need to be. When you're in the back end – it's just like the offensive line – your footwork has to be right, your eyes have to be right and your leverage has to be right and you have to play the ball well."
The Ravens have not made interceptions when they've had the chance. They had multiple opportunities in Pittsburgh, but came away with no picks.
Baltimore's secondary has faced the third-most passes in the league (336), yet has just five interceptions, which is tied for 22nd. Of those five picks, only one came from a defensive back and it was cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is out with a foot injury.
The Ravens are ranked 26th in pass defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 263 yards through the air per game.
"We're looking for the right combination, but I think that's a little overrated," Harbaugh said. "I think it's the best players."