BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Ravens are 5-1 coming out of their bye week but, judging by the conversation around the team, you’d think their record was much worse. The offense, which broke records last season, has seemed to be glitchy at points this year. The running game still ranks third in the league in yards (986) but the passing game ranks at the bottom of the league in yards (1,159) and 22nd in yards per attempt (7.0).
NFL on CBS play by play man Ian Eagle saw plenty of the Ravens last year and, in watching the team this year, he says he believes the team is still figuring out what its identity is.
“It was such a historic year last season, that it probably isn’t fair to compare it. You can’t just assume that you come back and do exactly what you did a year ago. Teams adjust, teams figure it out. And then it’s incumbent upon you to now determine what your identity really is,” said Eagle in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “I think this bye week came at the perfect time for Baltimore to sort through some things offensively and to determine who they are going to be on that side of the ball. Is it getting back to the running game and really dedicating themselves to that?”
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In terms of the running game, there is one big piece that Eagle notes is missing from last year: guard Marshal Yanda. When Yanda retired over the offseason, fans knew it would be tough to replace him and that has proven out during this season. Eagle also points out something that Ravens fans have been discussing too, the receiving corps needs to step up.
“Their wide receiving corps leaves something to be desired. They can’t just ask Lamar Jackson to do everything. He does need some support. So, I’m sure they self scouted this week and tried to streamline what’s been working,” said Eagle. “And I do think they’re trying to determine what they’re going to be when the smoke clears. That is still a legitimate question.”
This week would be a good time to find that identity. The 6-0 Steelers come to town with their best start to the season since 1978 and a full arsenal of options offensively.
“They have so many weapons the Steelers, that’s what really stands out to me. You look around the league, they can go toe to toe with anybody in terms of offensive options,” said Eagle. “The way that Ben Roethlisberger has spread it around, the play calls of Randy Fichtner, they have worked in unison. The right buttons have been pushed.”
Furthermore, Eagle points out that he believes the offense for Pittsburgh can be even better once they start hitting explosive plays. So, Sunday presents a tough test for Wink Martindale’s crew. But, they upgraded during the bye week as well, adding pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Roethlisberger gets the ball out of his hand quickly, averaging the shortest time to throw in the league per Next Gen Stats at 2.29 seconds. So, the matchups between the Steelers receivers and Ravens corners, being able to disrupt those patterns to let the pass rush to get home will be key to watch.
On defense, the Steelers excel in both pass rush and run stop win rate, ranking first in the league in both categories. That means the Ravens offensive line will be under arguably the most pressure they’ve faced this season Sunday and how they hold up in their blocks will be key. In Jackson’s lone start against the Steelers last year, he was sacked five times and threw three picks. The Ravens escaped with a win, but Roethlisberger was not playing. As always, Ravens-Steelers will be a hard fought matchup, fighting for the top of the AFC North.
The Ravens host the Steelers this Sunday, November 1 with kickoff set for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS.