Steelers looking to get aggressive at Baltimore
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers were bullied the last time they faced the Baltimore Ravens. In a rivalry mostly defined by physicality, that might be the worst that could be said about either side following a game.
When the Steelers travel to Baltimore for their second matchup on Sunday they want to re-establish an aggressive approach on their way to what would be a third straight win against AFC North opponents.
"This Pittsburgh-Ravens matchup, they have some hard guys up front. We do, too," guard Ramon Foster said. "We have to be on top of our job. ... Get away from the run early and it could be a long day for us. Unless Ben (Roethlisberger) is just airing it out and pushing everybody's fantasy points up."
In their 26-14 home loss to Baltimore in Week 4, Pittsburgh was limited to 19 yards rushing on 11 carries. It has averaged 137 yards on the ground in three straight wins since, including 168 yards in a 33-18 victory against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.
Those three wins have the Steelers atop the AFC North at 4-2-1, ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3). The Ravens have lost three of four games since defeating the Steelers, leaving them at 4-4.
Foster said Baltimore's recent slump has surprised him, but he expects the Ravens to "do everything they can not to stay that way."
"We have to be on our game," Foster said. "It's shocking, but me knowing them, they're going to give us their all."
Part of being on their game would include the Steelers converting first downs, limiting the Ravens' possessions and establishing an early lead. That's a recipe they didn't follow last time.
Pittsburgh fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter before tying it before halftime. Because of their lack of success early, the Steelers turned away from the run and relied almost exclusively on Roethlisberger.
After that seemingly worked, Pittsburgh stuck with the pass in the second half, when it was outscored 12-0. Six second-half drives ended with one interception, four punts and one turnover on downs.
"We can't have three three-and-outs and let them score 14 points," Foster said. "That falls on us. Mainly the offense because we had some terrible plays. We can't have that."
The fix is simple, at least according to center Maurkice Pouncey.
"We just have to play better, block guys better, get better fits on guys," Pouncey said, "and make sure the running back has lanes to run into."
That running back will be James Conner more often than not. He's averaged 85.6 rushing yards in seven games during his second NFL season, but had a season-low 2.11 yards per rush against Baltimore.
Pouncey credited the Ravens for their defensive success in the first game. He also knows they can make it difficult again Sunday.
"They have the core guys that they have. They like to bring in the guys that fit their system," Pouncey said. "They have a great coaching staff, a great organization. So it speaks a lot about them. They're always really good."
But the Steelers think they are, too. On Sunday, they want to take another step toward proving it.
"Everybody's desperate this time of year," Foster said. "Especially when you have, for us, three back-to-back division games. I don't think it's a make-or-break (game), but they want to win it just as bad as we do."