After the euphoria of their first win, the Steelers stay in Pittsburgh and play host to the Ravens. Baltimore were sitting pretty at 2-0 before falling to the Chiefs and then last week the Browns.
After their win Browns coach Freddie Kitchens described how quarterback Baker Mayfield “did an excellent job staying in the pocket and hanging in there. He did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands and getting the ball into the hands of the guys who can make plays.”
It’s obvious that with Mason Rudolph starting only his second game that he will be the focus of the Ravens defense. Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was excellent in his play calling Monday. It provided Rudolph with the protection that allowed him to complete 85% of his passes.
The game plan worked because of a revitalised James Conner and an electric Jaylen Samuels. The Steelers will need something comparable to overcome the Ravens even though Baltimore’s defense is no longer the bastion of the past.
Baltimore’s quarterback Lamar Jackson is the only player in NFL history to produce at least 1,100 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in the first four weeks of a season (1,110 passing & 238 rushing). Entering Week 5, Jackson’s 10 passing touchdowns tie Patrick Mahomes and Jacoby Brissett for the most in the NFL.
The Steelers signed Taryn Christion to their practice squad at the beginning of this week. Apparently, he enjoys a similar playing profile to Jackson and will be useful in preparing their defense against Baltimore.
It won’t only be Jackson that the Steelers need to prepare against. The Ravens running game received a lift when they picked up UFA Mark Ingram at the beginning of the year. He has 328 yards on the season which compares favourably with the Steelers team total of 399 yards. Ingram averages 5.96 yards a carry ranking him third in the NFL.
The Ravens have combined for 823 rushing yards which are the most any Ravens team has produced through the first four games of a season. Jackson contributed 238 yards to that total so the Steelers defense has to play canny.
Now we know what the Steelers are up against, how can they win? The Ravens represent a more difficult challenge than the Bengals did for Mason Rudolph to overcome. Coach Tomlin has already indicated that there will be fewer opportunities to use the wildcat option that was so successful.
With at least two touchdown passes against the Ravens, Rudolph would become the third player in NFL history to pass for at least two touchdowns in each of his first four career games. He will join Jay Cutler and Mark Rypien.
JuJu is listed as questionable. He injured a toe against the Bengals but did practice Friday so should dress for the game.
His fall off in receiving yards is probably due to the coverage he is now getting because of the absence of AB. JuJu played 74% of the offensive snaps against the Bengals although he was only targeted 4 times with 3 receptions for 15 yards.