Five Storylines Heading Into Ravens-Steelers in Week 5

Unrecognizable rivalry: new faces & different team dynamics

Matt Koll
October 04, 2019 - 12:37 pm

5. Tomlin v. Harbaugh

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No Ben Roethlisberger. No Terrell Suggs. No Joey Porter. No Ray Lewis. No Troy Polamalu. No Ed Reed. No Hines Ward. No Haloti Ngata.

But there are these two: Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh.

They’ve become the mainstays in this modern version of the rivalry and I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at CBS show a comparison graphic of these two during their time in charge of their respective teams. Tomlin comes in having never had a losing season, with a 196-126 record , a .645 winning percentage and an 8-7 record in the playoffs.

Harbaugh comes in 106-74 as the Ravens leader, a .589 winning percentage and a 10-6 postseason record. Both have won a Super Bowl and both are going on a decade plus in their positions. There aren’t too many divisional coaching battles like this left in a league in which coaches circle the wagons just as much as players do.

As the player character leave the rivalry more and more each year, these two are defining this era of Ravens-Steelers. Enjoy the chess match. Enjoy the battle.


4. Is JuJu Up For the Joust?

Last week, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey made headlines when he appeared to bring Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the ground by choking him. If you review the video it’s debatable, but regardless of the choke slam there’s no denying Humphrey shut Beckham down. The Browns top receiver was held without a catch under garbage time in the 4th quarter.

The Steelers new #1 target, JuJu Smith-Schuster, hasn’t had the kind of season many expected to this point. Some of it has been because his Hall of Fame quarterback isn’t throwing him the ball, but some of it has been an inability to create separation down the field. JuJu particularly struggled against the ultra-physical Stephon Gillmore in Week 1 and considering the mulling that took place on the field last week, Humphrey seems like more of the same.

The Steelers won on Monday night without him being a huge factor, but can that continue?

3. To Be Wild Or Not To Be Wild

It were vaulted back to 2008 last week when the Steelers came out in the Wildcat formation and what started out as a couple play gimmick, actually worked. And worked again. And worked again. Credit to Randy Fichtner or whoever on that offensive staff for being gutsy enough to call it and run it against the Bengals. It averaged just under seven yards per play so the question now becomes: Do you do it again against Baltimore?

Certainly the Ravens will be more prepared for it now that the Steelers have shown it to the world. But I’d have to think the Bengals recognized it after the first couple plays and still had a hard time stopping it. You’d think the Ravens defense is much more legitimate but not so fast! (I’ll get to that in my next point). I don’t think the Wildcat will be completely abandoned but I do see them going away from it quickly if the same rate of success isn’t there after the first couple attempts. It’s at least something nice to have in the back pocket for an offense that really hasn’t done much outside of it other than a couple long touchdown passes from a quarterback that seemingly isn’t allowed to throw the ball down the field even semi-reguarly.

2. Ravens Defense Ripe For The Picking?

Baltimore analysts have come on the station and essentially ripped apart this Ravens defense this week. Ken Wineman from 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore called the unit “disgusting” while on the PM Team this week and Vinny Cerrato of the very same station said their tackling has been “pathetic.”

The Ravens have been gashed like they’ve never seen before in the last two weeks. Seriously. They gave up 500 yards of offense in back to back games for the first time in franchise history with their putrid performances against the Chiefs and Browns leading up to Sunday. It sure would seem like this is the perfect opportunity for an offense still struggling to find an identity like the Steelers to find and establish one. But the flip side to that coin is, what if these past two weeks, and last week’s debacle at home especially, was exactly the kick in the back side the Ravens defense needed to shape up and play up to their potential?

 Part of me is excited to see what Mason Rudolph can do against a team ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game, but the other wonders if that was the ultimate wakeup call. There’s no denying the numbers, Baltimore has been uncharacteristically bad this year and on the surface, maybe it’s a game featuring more scoring than we’re used to in this rivalry matchup.

1. Lamar Unleashed

After jumping off to a monster start to begin the year, Lamar Jackson has looked at least a little more human the past couple weeks. When you throw for 596 yards, run for 126 and throw seven touchdowns with no interceptions in 2 games, it kinda hard to keep up that pace.

Listening to his press conference this week, it’s really hard not to like him. He seems open and genuine about his love to play football and while the quotes looked bad when he said he enjoyed the “little song” (Renegade) and the “little towels” at Heinz Field last year, if you listen and watch him say it, it seemed like he truly did enjoy the atmosphere.

The experts say that the best way to contain Jackson is with pressure from the middle.  Force him to move around in the pocket, make him uncomfortable and maybe you can get some sacks. It’s encouraging that the Browns were able to bring him down four times last week, considering the Steelers tied a franchise record last week with 8 sacks against Cincinnati. Jackson wants to be known more as a throwing quarterback and he did well when he focused on getting it to Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. They tried to spread the ball around a little more the past couple weeks and it was nearly as effective. Let’s see if they go back to that well. A mobile QB, a top end tight end and a physical running back tandem with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards sounds like a recipe for havoc against the Steelers defense in what they’ve shown this year in every game but Monday night.

Lamar is as dynamic a playmaker as there is in the league right now and while I believe in the talent assembled on defense, I don’t trust defensive coordinator Keith Butler to put a successful scheme together to stop him.
I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see.  

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