Za'Darius Smith Steps Up Intensity In Two-Sack Game


The Ravens saw another side of rookie Za'Darius Smith Thursday.

The rookie outside linebacker has been quiet for the first three games in the NFL, but that changed in Pittsburgh when he picked up the first two sacks of his career on back-to-back plays against Steelers quarterback Michael Vick.

Leave it to a Ravens-Steelers match to elevate a rookie's intensity.

"I think he has really been ramping up his intensity level, how he plays from one play to the next, understanding at this level the edge that you have to play on to be successful [and] how hard you have to play," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He applied that in that Pittsburgh game better than he has at any point in time."

Smith's sacks came during a critical drive in the third quarter, and it was a bit of a coming out party for the fourth-round draft pick. Smith finished the game with a total of four tackles, as he also made a pair of stops in the run game to go along with the pass rush.

The Ravens have needed that kind of outing from Smith, especially after veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was lost for the season. Smith has played every game since Suggs went down in Week 1, and he's made strides since initially struggling during his debut in Week 2.

He generated two quarterback hurries last week against Cincinnati and followed that up with the two-sack game in Pittsburgh.

"He has always been good, but not really good enough to make a difference until this game, and that was really good to see," Harbaugh said.

The coaching staff's confidence in Smith is evident by the fact that he's currently ahead of veteran outside linebacker Jason Babin on the depth chart. Babin was a healthy scratch the first two weeks after signing in September, and then saw just seven defensive snaps against the Steelers during his Baltimore debut.

Harbaugh liked what he saw from Babin last week, so the veteran could push for playing time as he continues to get a grasp of Baltimore's defense.  

"Jason plays hard," Harbaugh said. "He played hard. He was a factor in terms of the effort, and I think he [was] really disciplined with his pass rush. The thing we asked our guys to do in this game was be very disciplined with their pass rush and treat it almost like run defense because you've got a guy [Michael Vick] back there who can throw and can run and can really hurt you with his arm and with his legs.

"I thought those guys did a good job of that, for the most part, and he still got out and made some plays."

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