The Pittsburgh Steelers have come a long way since a week five beating at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re riding a seven game winning streak and can wrap up another AFC North title with a win Sunday night. The Baltimore Ravens have turned their season around as well after a horrible start, climbing back into the playoff picture. The Steelers (10-2) host the Ravens (7-5) this Sunday night in a prime time matchup that has postseason implications for both teams. Pittsburgh intends to hold on to the number one seed while Baltimore looks to keep their wildcard spot. Week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers keys to victory breaks down what must happen for the Steelers to extend their winning streak.
Week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers Keys To Victory
It’s always a battle when the Steelers and the Ravens get together. The Steelers lead the all-time series 23-20 and have beaten them twice in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens eliminated the Steelers from the postseason in 2015, while Antonio Brown‘s “Immaculate Extension” in 2016 clinched the division. When these teams get together, something is always at stake, so look for the action to heat up early.
The Steelers will be without linebacker Ryan Shazier and JuJu Smith-Schuster this week. Shazier suffered a spinal concussion in Cincinnati, and Smith-Schuster will be serving his one game suspension for taunting.
Tyler Matakevich has yet to practice this week following his shoulder injury, so the Steelers signed linebacker Sean Spence. Cornerback Joe Haden is the only other non-participant in practice this week. Mike Mitchell and Vance McDonald were back to full participation. Antonio Brown also sat out on Thursday to rest his toe. The Steelers will be at full strength for the most part though, looking to extend their seven game winning streak. Accomplishing these week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers keys to victory will ensure prime time success.
Protect Ben Roethlisberger
Protecting Ben Roethlisberger could be a key to victory every week, but never moreso than against the Ravens. The Ravens have had most of their success against the Steelers when they have gotten to Roethlisberger. The Steelers are playing their biggest game of the season in a time slot they have dominated. With the division title at stake on a national stage, against their biggest rival, expect the game plan and the line to keep Roethlisberger out of harm’s way.
Keep Ringing the Bell
Le’Veon Bell has been very successful against the Ravens recently and has opened things up for Brown. The Steelers need to be creative with how they get him the ball on Sunday night. It’s hard for defenses to lock in on him when he lines up in multiple positions. Regardless of the capacity in which he is used, Bell is just as valuable as a decoy. Bell is averaging 4.57 yards per carry against Baltimore, in eight games, with five touchdowns. He had 144 yards on 35 carries, including two touchdowns back in October. As Bell goes, so goes the Steelers, and in a big prime time game, the Steelers are sure to turn him loose.
Scheme Around the Loss of Ryan Shazier
Ryan Shazier is as close to irreplaceable as it gets on the Steelers defense. Keith Butler and the week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers defense is about to face that realization. To make matters worse, backup inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich has been lost to a shoulder injury.
The Steelers have turned to a familiar face with experience in the defense, Sean Spence. Spence adds quality depth and athleticism that pairs well with L.J. Fort. Butler knows Spence well, and needs to put him and Fort in the best possible position to be successful. Neither one is Shazier, but both are capable of getting the job done with help from the talent around them.
Attack the Ravens Secondary
An average secondary has become a bit more suspect with the season ending injury to cornerback Jimmy Smith. However, the Ravens believe Maurice Canady is ready to step up and shut down whoever he is covering. The Steelers will be without Smith-Schuster, but Roethlisberger still has Brown and Bryant at his disposal. Vance McDonald should be ready to go as well. Roethlisberger exploits weakness as good as anybody, and McDonald could play a critical role. McDonald, who doesn’t get enough credit for being a good route runner, is a good weapon down the seam and on skinny posts. Look for Roethlisberger to attack the Ravens Secondary using secondary weapons to set up Brown for another big day.
Week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers keys to victory Wrap up
The Steelers tend to show out in prime time, and especially against Ravens. They need to protect Roethlisberger and get Bell going early, which puts the onus on the offensive line. Maurkice Pouncey and the boys live for these moments. They love pounding the ball and throwing bodies around. The Steelers are coming off a physical win over the Cincinnati Bengals and are already in that frame of mind. Look for the Steelers to set a physical tone early and not let up until the final gun. History favors the Steelers in this one, who have much on the line. The Steelers won’t run away with this one, but all should be satisfied if they walk away with a win.