View Full Version : Ravens mission vs. Steelers: Stop the pass rush

09-30-2010, 10:06 PM
Ravens mission vs. Steelers: Stop the pass rush
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By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun
Story posted 2010.09.30 at 04:24 PM EDT

Baltimore Sun News

The visual of LaMarr Woodley sweeping in from the Ravens' right to dump Joe Flacco on consecutive plays at Heinz Field last December is a stark reminder of how tough it is to protect your quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the span of seven offensive snaps four drop-backs the Steelers sacked Flacco three times. Driving for a tying field goal or go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the Ravens coughed up a 23-20 loss instead.

On Sunday, the Ravens go back to Pittsburgh, ready for combat, hoping they can do a better job of containing Woodley and the rest of the Steelers' defensive blitzkrieg.

"Sometimes, if you're playing against an elite defense, you might slide all the protections one way," center Matt Birk said. "Well, you can't against the Steelers. They've got two great outside rushers, they've got great inside rushers. They've got linebackers who understand how to play. They've got a safety that can blitz any gap.

"So scheme-wise, there's really not a whole lot you can do to try to neutralize their strengths because they have so many."

The Steelers bring a double-barrel threat in outside linebackers James Harrison and Woodley. Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel give them a strong push up the middle, and if that's not enough, there's safety Troy Polamalu in the back end, waiting to pounce at his discretion.

It's a combination that has proved ruinous in Flacco's two-plus NFL seasons. Last year they sacked him nine times to split the season series. But they have been especially rough on Flacco in Pittsburgh, where he is 0-3 with a 2008 AFC championship game loss.

In three career games at Heinz Field, Flacco has been sacked 12 times, thrown four interceptions and completed just 48.8 percent of his throws.

"Besides the playoff game [a 23-14 loss], we've played them really good up there," Flacco said. "We just haven't come out with wins. We've got to finish games and this is going to be another good game and we'll have to finish it in the fourth quarter when it comes down to the time to do that."

The fourth quarter is when Woodley, 25, and Harrison, 32, seem to be at their best. They are the NFL's most dominant pass rushing tandem at outside linebacker, combining for 23.5 sacks in 2009, and a Steelers' record of 27.5 in 2008.

Ravens left tackle Michael Oher will face Harrison on Sunday. A year ago, Oher played right tackle against Woodley in a Nov. 29 game in Baltimore, and left tackle against Harrison in December, when Jared Gaither was out.

"The only difference I can see is one has a [defensive player of the year award] and one doesn't right now," Oher said, referring to Harrison's 2008, 16-sack season. "They're both good."

Gaither's injury absence last December resulted in Oniel Cousins starting at right tackle for the Ravens. Woodley responded with a monster game: 10 tackles (7 solos), two sacks, a forced fumble and one pass broken up. He almost single-handedly stopped the Ravens on their final two drives.

The task of stopping Woodley now falls to Marshal Yanda, this season's right tackle. The two had played against each other in college when Yanda was at Iowa and Woodley at Michigan.

"He was a great effort guy, a real strong guy," Yanda said. "He's like 6-2, so he's got good leverage. If you get high, he's going to get underneath you and jack you into the quarterback. So you've got to identify his rush and play your butt off. He's one of the best."

Right guard Chris Chester, who started at tight end to help Cousins in the December matchup, quickly gained his own measure of respect for Woodley.

"He's a good mix of being quick, but also being powerful," Chester said. "He's not just a one-trick pony. He has the power to bull you if you're not in a good football position, and the quickness to put you at a disadvantage if you're laying off the ball."

Harrison has had his moments against the Ravens, too. In the 2008 game in Pittsburgh, his sack and forced fumble against Flacco resulted in a 7-yard fumble return touchdown for Woodley. He forced another fumble last December.

"At times we've done well against one guy, but then the other guy has hurt us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's pretty hard to provide help on both sides of your pass protection and get anybody out [into pass routes]. That's the biggest thing. They are very powerful rushers that's the No. 1 thing. They really bring it and you're not sure where they're coming from, and they bring it with a lot of power."

Last season, the Ravens didn't see Polamalu in either game because of a knee injury. But he is healthy now and has two of the Steelers' five interceptions. He plays safety similarly to the Ravens' Ed Reed and can create havoc with his ability to improvise on the spot.

You always account for him because we know he's got some freedom to [change] plays at times and do what he thinks can stop any play," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "So you have an understanding of that. You can't overreact to it, but you can't minimize it, either. Know where he is, be heads-up for basically anything, stay within the structure of the play and play ball."

Protecting Flacco against the Steelers is a full-time job with no plays off.

"Our goal is not to have Joe get hit," Yanda said. "The defense wants to knock the quarterback out of the game, obviously. It doesn't have to be a dirty defense to do that; that's just part of their job. So our job is to prevent that from happening. That is a huge priority for us. But it's not the only one. We definitely want to run the ball on them and that makes it easier [to pass protect]."


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Story posted 2010.09.30 at 04:24 PM EDT

09-30-2010, 10:14 PM
That's their mission huh ? Yeah, and it's Sarah Palin's " Mission " to eventually get her IQ above 25. But just like the Ravens Mission to hault our Pass rush,,,I wouldn't hold your breath!

09-30-2010, 10:15 PM
Sarah Palins smart enough to get her daughter to do the dancing for her...:rofl: