News & Notes: Greg Roman Discusses Red Zone, Deep Ball Struggles

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Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman

Since their 8-3 start, the Ravens' lack of big plays and red zone struggles have been a major factor in their five-game losing streak that will likely leave them outside the playoffs.

In their most recent loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Ravens settled for field goals twice after driving inside the 5-yard line, leaving the door open for Los Angeles' game-winning drive. In one-point losses to Pittsburgh and Green Bay, the Ravens failed on two-point conversion attempts late in the fourth quarter that could have won the game.

"The red zone is generally the last place where a quarterback reaches his peak, just because time and space are a huge factor there," Roman said, referring to Tyler Huntley. "He's doing some really good things down there. The whole offense, though, has to operate better down there to get in the end zone. We definitely had a couple opportunities there that we could have capitalized on and need to."

Meanwhile, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is closing on a 1,000-yard season (88 catches, 981 yards), but he has been stymied as a deep threat recently by opponents who have successfully taken the long ball out of Baltimore's offense.

Brown was a game-breaker in the first half of the season, averaging at least 11.5 yards per catch in seven of Baltimore's first eight games. However, his production has dropped significantly down the stretch, held under 60 yards in seven straight games including Sunday, when the Rams limited Brown to three catches for 28 yards.

"I think halfway through the season, we were No. 1 in big plays, and they've dropped off dramatically," Roman said. "We want to always be able to try to create big plays, or at least threaten the defense with big plays.

"A huge component of that is how defenses have played us. A lot of teams changed their strategies against us. This last team that came in, we've never seen that kind of approach against us before, where they basically say, 'Go ahead and run it every play if you want.' So, that's part of it, and part of it is being able to execute those plays on the field."

When the Ravens tried throwing deep to Brown before halftime Sunday, it proved costly when Tyler Huntley was intercepted to set up the Rams' first touchdown. Huntley played into the Rams' hands by forcing the deep ball to Brown instead of checking down to Mark Andrews, who was wide open.

"You can call those plays where you're throwing the ball deep, but the ball is not always going to get thrown deep if they're defending the deep part of the field," Roman said. "You have to bring that ball down to your No. 2, No. 3, [or] sometimes No. 4 option.

"There are a lot of ways to create big plays. If the defense is defending the deep part of the field, we probably won't be throwing it deep as much. We shouldn't be, unless we have a particular matchup on a 50-50 type of ball. We're always looking for big plays or point producing plays – something we have to continue to work at."

Wink Martindale Not Convinced Big Ben Will Retire

Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale has seen enough comebacks by Ben Roethlisberger to know that it's dangerous to count him out. Sunday is expected to be Roethlisberger's last game but Martindale isn't sure.

"I'm not sure it's going to be his final time," Martindale said. "He's like The Terminator. It's unbelievable – his resiliency and his toughness. It's crazy how well he's played for all these years and how tough he is. There's nothing but respect for Ben."

The Steelers rank second in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring (10.1 points), trailing only the Rams (10.4). When the Ravens lost 20-19 in Pittsburgh this season, the Steelers erupted for 17 points in the fourth quarter on three straight scoring drives. Even if the Ravens stop Roethlisberger early, they know he's still most dangerous in the fourth quarter.

"That's a credit to Ben," Martindale said. "I think Ben takes the game over in the fourth quarter, and he sees what he sees, and he attacks it."

Ravens Looking for 'Three-Game Parlay'

The Ravens are very aware of the scenario they need to make the playoffs. If the Colts, Dolphins and Chargers all lose Sunday, the Ravens are in if they win.

Martindale drew laughs when he talked about the Ravens' playoff hopes like a fan headed to Las Vegas for the weekend.

"Let's [not] put this season to bed yet, because if we win this game, we just need a three-game parlay, now, to hit," Martindale said. "I don't want to sound like Pete Rose up here, but we just need a three-game parlay to hit; a lot of people bet five and six – not that I'm a gambler. But that's all we need to hit, and we'll be continuing in the playoffs, and I'm sure our fanbase feels the same way, as well."

Diontae Johnson, Kendrick Green Placed on Steelers Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Steelers could be without their leading receiver and starting center Sunday.

Diontae Johnson and Kendrick Green were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, joining starting cornerback Joe Haden and Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler, who were placed on the list Wednesday.

Johnson leads the Steelers with 100 receptions, 1,110 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches, and he had two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's win over Baltimore this season.

If Johnson can't play, more weight will fall on wide receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth in Pittsburgh's offense, and the Steelers may rely more heavily on the running game led by Najee Harris (1,172 yards), who's coming off a season-high 188 yards against the Browns on Monday night.

While Green has been the starter at center most of the season, he missed the Browns game and the Steelers got a strong performance from backup center J.C. Hassenauer.

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