Collier: Heat still on despite cooler Steelers-Ravens rivalry
October 20, 2013 4:00 AM
Despite the Steelers' 1-4 record, fans should still expect to see plenty of this today against the Baltimore Ravens.
By Gene Collier Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Apparently being unable to name every Baltimore Ravens defender the way you have for most of your life is entirely forgivable, but you'd better know this: Whoever that is playing defense for John Harbaugh, they're bringing every last degree of the customary heat.
It's OK to have spent your Ravens week counting all the missing pieces from the eternal puzzle facing Ben Roethlisberger -- Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams, all gone from the familiar murder of crows -- but don't sleep on the extreme pressure they're still generating in violent waves.
"I think you don't see as much of the exotic stuff," Steelers tight end Heath Miller was saying about Baltimore's recent blitz tendencies. "They've got a lot of new faces and they're new down the middle, but they've been pretty basic. And the reason for that is because they're getting a lot of pressure without having to do anything special."
A lot of pressure from a lot of people.
The 2013 Ravens have more people with sacks (9) than the Steelers have, uh, sacks (7).
By far the most frightening new component is Elvis "Doom" Dumervil, formerly a terror of the Mile High environs. This particular iteration, Doom II: Hell on Earth, seems the perfect menace/complement to Terrell Suggs. Neither really needs an introduction.
Suggs is Baltimore's all-time sacks leader with 91.5, but Dumervil actually has more than Suggs since coming into the NFL in 2006. Despite missing all of 2010 with an injury, Dumervil has 68.5 sacks.
"They're just great pass rushers; I mean Dumervil is Dumervil for a reason, Suggs is Suggs for a reason," said Kelvin Beachum, Roethlisberger's primary blind side protector for this afternoon's 4:25 appointment. "They just have great technique, great leverage, and they come hard all the time.
"Against them, it's not so much tactics as it is a mindset. It's the Ravens and you just have to get it in your mind that you're going to be more physical than they are."
That's a useful reminder for anyone in black and gold today, but it's especially true for the men trying to keep Roethlisberger upright against long odds. Baltimore's 22 sacks are not only more than anyone in the league except Seattle's 23 and Kansas City with 30, but 22 sacks through six games is a number no Ravens team has exceeded, a rate that, if it holds, will threaten the franchise record of 60 set in 1998.
So far, Roethlisberger's been felled 19 times, or 3.8 times per game, a figure strikingly similar to Baltimore's 3.67 sacks per episode. In other words, Ben's protection has done a pretty good impression of the generic stunt men in a Ravens highlight film.
"I'm just trying to find ways to get better, day by day," said Beachum, who began the season as a backup and is today probably as reliable a protector as Ben has in front of him, outside of Miller. "I just want to make sure I'm the best left tackle I can be."
The last time these teams met, Beachum was trying to be the best right tackle he could be, left guard Ramon Foster was trying to be the best right guard he could be, part-time guard Doug Legursky was trying to be the best center he could be, All Pro center Maurkice Pouncy was trying to be the best left guard he could be, and reliable left tackle Max Starks was trying (and succeeding) in just being Max Starks.
They allowed only two sacks in front of Charlie Batch that day in Baltimore.
But 60 percent of that offensive line is gone and the other 40 percent are playing different positions, so it'll be hair-raising to see just how the Ravens attempt to exploit the situation.
Exotics? They don't need no stinkin' exotics.
"If they can rush four and drop seven and still get to the passer, I don't expect a lot of changes," Miller said. "Suggs [with 7] and Dumervil  are up to the 12 sacks already and they're not even half way through the season. They're playing really well and we're gonna have to keep them away from Ben.
"They like Suggs on the open side in their regular stuff [opposite the tight end], but they'll flip [Suggs and Dumervil]. Unfortunately, I'll probably see a lot of both of them through the game."
The important thing is that Ben doesn't.
If the people in front of him could ensure that, could remove that standard Baltimore obstacle, you might be able to see all the way to 2-4.