Kickoff Sunday, Nov 1st 1:00pm Eastern

Steelers (
21) at

Ravens (
24.5)

Over/Under 45.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Steelers Run D
6th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
11th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
2nd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
22nd DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
3rd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
10th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
15th DVOA/18th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • Likely defensive struggle between two top defenses
  • Clear possible tributary scenarios exist, largely dependent on Marquise Brown (further dependent on Ravens coaching staff to adjust earlier rather than later to the opponent)
  • High leverage in those tributaries

How Pittsburgh Will Try To Win ::

For how much the scenery has changed in Pittsburgh (offensive and defensive personnel mostly), not much has changed over the previous three seasons in which Ben Roethlisberger has been healthy with respect to how the Steelers will try to win, and it all starts with that defense. Pittsburgh’s defense, although not quite returning to the “Steel Curtain” years, currently rank first in the NFL in yards allowed per drive, first in plays allowed per drive, first in time of possession allowed per drive, second in average starting field position, first in run defense DVOA, eighth in pass defense DVOA, and second in Drive Success Rate (DSR) allowed.

On offense, the Steelers have adapted their game plan to suit the strengths (or diminishing strengths) of their aging quarterback, playing at a slow pace (30th-ranked pace of play at 29.48 seconds per play) and running a balanced offense (34.11% first down rush percentage, 45.21% rush percentage overall) with a low average Intended Air Yards (IAY/PA; fourth lowest at 6.6, ahead of only Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Daniel Jones). Pairing the effectiveness of the defense with the propensity of the offense to sustain drives (fourth-ranked time of possession per drive at 3:11) yields an above average 70.16 offensive plays run from scrimmage per game.

On the ground, we’re seeing the re-emergence of a typical “Steelers’ bell-cow running back,” with James Conner playing 84% of the Week 7 snaps and seeing 83.3% (25 of 30) of the total running back opportunities available. His box score against Tennessee doesn’t scream upside, but he had a rushing score called back, saw Benny Snell vulture two goal line carries (converted one to a touchdown), as well as dropped a sure-touchdown pass (with the nearest defender no closer than four yards away). The matchup is not a good one against a tough interior run defense of the Ravens, yielding a net-adjusted line yards value of 3.995, fourth lowest on the slate. All-world nose tackle Brandon Williams was activated from the NFL’s COVID protocol shortly after missing their Week 6 victory over the Eagles, and has been a large part of how this Ravens team has been so effective against the run (paired with Calais Campbell up front).

With the emergence of Chase Claypool, the Steelers have utilized a tight distribution of pass-catching assets, depending on health. Expect Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool to start opposite one another on the perimeter, each seeing 70-75% snap rates on a standard week, with JuJu Smith-Schuster manning primarily the slot (75-80% snap rate) and Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald seeing 75-80% and 50-55% snap rates, respectively. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters will be tasked with primary coverage, with Jimmy Smith working in for nickel packages (the former two being every-down corners, while Smith’s snap rate depends largely on the opponent). From a pure personnel and scheme standpoint, this will be the Steelers’ toughest test to date, as all of Humphrey, Peters and Smith have numerous defensive accolades to their resume, including all-pro statuses for all three. With Tavon Young injured, Humphrey has primarily moved to the slot in nickel packages, with Smith and Peters manning the perimeter, which should lead to heavy JuJu/Humphrey battles near the line of scrimmage and Peters and Smith left to handle Claypool and Johnson rotating sides. For how strong the cornerbacks have been this season, the safeties have been far less effective, allowing a 101.4 QBR in their coverage. As such, expect the primary damage through the air from the Steelers to be done along the sideline against zone coverage and over the middle of the field in man coverage. The one area of the field that the Ravens have really struggled is in the red zone, as they have allowed a 30th-ranked red zone touchdown rate of 76.92% on the season.

How Baltimore Will Try To Win ::

Slow pace, high rush rate (and the constant threat of both designed quarterback runs and quarterback scrambles) with downfield passing mixed in. That’s the name of the game for these Ravens. Baltimore leads the league in overall rush rate (50.14%) and ranks third in first down rush rate (40.35%). That could be an issue this week against a defense ranked first in rush DVOA against the run and second in yards allowed per carry. In the Week 6 victory over the Eagles (a similar matchup to the Steelers on the ground), Lamar Jackson attempted 27 passes compared to 37 total team rush attempts. Digging into those numbers further, Baltimore led 24-6 entering the fourth quarter and did not need to open up their game. Against the Steelers, it is likely we see the pass play rate spike as the Ravens adjust to what the opponent will give them.

Mark Ingram is currently questionable for this game, having suffered a mid-to-high ankle sprain in Week 6 (DNP Wednesday). Should he miss, it is likely we see a two-man rotation at running back, split fairly evenly between Gus Edwards and rookie JK Dobbins (44%/41% snap rate in Week 6 and 14/13 running back opportunities, respectively). Gus the Bus is utilized primarily as a downhill runner, with only three targets and zero catches season to date, while Dobbins adds versatility to the backfield, with a total of 25 rushes and 14 targets on the year. With heavy 12, 21, and 22-personnel alignments (48% combined), expect the Ravens to do what they can to remain unpredictable, primarily achieving this through constantly changing personnel alignments.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is the only borderline every-down player on offense, averaging over 85% of the offensive snaps over the previous two games. Expect Willie Snead IV to see 60-65% of snaps, with Miles Boykin and game-breaking rookie Devin Duvernay mixing in for 35-45% of snap each. At tight end, Mark Andrews is the primary pass-catcher and Nick Boyle the primary in-line tight end, with Andrews averaging 65% of snaps on the season. The Steelers mix zone and man coverage principles at an NFL-average rate, and we should expect coverage schemes to be highly influenced by down and distance to go in this game (heavy man on early downs, with zone on second and third downs). We can all but guarantee John Harbaugh and Greg Roman will pick up on this, so look for early down deep passes to Hollywood mixed in over the course of the game. Hollywood Brown ranks seventh in air yards plus yards after the catch per game at 130.2 and the Steelers have been victimized by deep passes this year (stat courtesy Matthew Freedman). Brown’s standard range of targets is six to eight, with room here to approach or surpass double digit looks should we see increased pass attempts from Lamar Jackson (likely in this game situation). Behind Brown, expect another six to eight targets for Mark Andrews, three to four targets for Snead, Boykin, and Duvernay, two to four targets for Dobbins, and two to four targets for the ancillary pass-catchers. 

Likeliest Game Flow ::

Because of the somewhat inexplicable red zone deficiencies of the Ravens, it is likelier that the Steelers break through first here and assert control of the game (unless a clear tributary develops, covered below). In this case, look for a spike in passing attempts from the Ravens, as the best way to move the ball against this tough Steelers defense is through the air. That volume should be concentrated first on Hollywood Brown, with Andrews, Duvernay, Boykin and Snead next up, in that order. This would allow the Steelers to continue their likeliest plan of attack, moving the ball on the ground and via short passing as the game moves on. 

Tributaries ::

DFS+ Interpretation ::

  • BAL scoring totals: 38, 33, 20, 31, 27, 30
  • PIT opp scoring totals: 16, 21, 21, 29, 7, 24
  • Lamar’s pass & rush att 2020: (25, 7) // (24, 16) // (28, 9) // (21, 7) // (37, 2) // (27, 9)
  • PIT has faced the sixth fewest pass att/g
  • In Lamar’s only career game vs PIT (Week 5, 2019), he finished 19/28 for 161 yds, TD, 3 INT; 14 att 70 yds; sacked 5 times
  • BAL ranks 12th in PBWR while PIT ranks 1st in PRWR
  • After just 3/15 games under 26 DK pts in 2019, Lamar already has 3 of those in 6 games in 2020 (17.6, 15.2, 14.6)
  • Five of six QBs threw for 2 TDs vs PIT (they averaged 263 yds, 2 TD, 1.2 INT)
  • PIT ranks 20th in pass success rate allowed to WRs
  • BAL ranks just 28th in pass success rate to WRs
  • Marquise Brown has seen consistent target totals of 6, 6, 6, 8, 10, 6
  • Brown has the 4th highest aDOT in the NFL (16.4) and 45.8% of BAL’s air yds
  • Eight WRs have finished with 45 or more rec yds: Slayton (102) // Shep (47) // Sutton (66) // Jeudy (62) // Hamler (48) // Cobb (95) // Fuller (54) // Fulgham (152) // AJ Brown (153)
  • Brown finished with 3 rec (5) 22 yds, TD vs PIT in 2019
  • PIT ranks 1st in pass success rate allowed to TEs
  • BAL ranks 16th in pass success rate to TEs
  • Mark Andrews has the highest aDOT among TEs (11.9)
  • Andrews targets: 6, 3, 8, 3, 9, 4
  • Andrews has been very TD dependent, scoring 22.8, 20.7, 17.6 in games he’s scored (5 TDs) and just 3.9, 5.2, 4.1 in the others
  • Fant is the only TE to score vs PIT so far
  • Andrews has totaled 10 rec (15) for 107 yds in 3 career games vs PIT
  • PIT ranks 4th in pass success rate allowed to RBs
  • BAL ranks 29th in RB pass success rate
  • BAL still rarely targets RBs (just 22 total on season), but Dobbins has the two best performances through the air in 2020: 4 rec 38 yds // 3 rec 21 yds
  • BAL’s RB distribution being distributed across 3 guys has led to only two double-digit scores so far from the group: 14.2 from Dobbins (thanks to 2 TDs) and 13.7 from Ingram
  • Rush att for each: Ingram (50), Edwards (48), Dobbins (25)
  • Ingram may miss, opening up for touches for the others (both saw season-high att last game when Ingram left early)
  • Dobbins is averaging 6.2 yds/att compared to 4.5 each for Edwards & Ingram
  • BAL ranks 9th in Run Block Win Rate while PIT ranks 1st in Run Stop Win Rate
  • BAL ranks 11th in PRWR, has the 2nd most sacks/g, and just added MIN sack leader Yannick Ngakoue
  • Ben is averaging the quickest time to throw in the NFL (a crazy low 2.29 seconds), which means he’s throwing faster than ESPN’s threshold for measuring pass block win rate (2.5 seconds)
  • Ben also has the 5th lowest aDOT among full-time starters
  • Ben is still averaging 241 yds, 2.2 TD, 0.7 INT
  • BAL ranks 5th & 8th in RB & WR pass success rate allowed
  • PIT ranks bottom 10 in RB, TE, & WR pass success rate
  • WRs with 50+ yds vs BAL: Landry (61) // Cooks (95) // Cobb (59) // Hill (77, TD) // Hardman (81, TD) // Watkins (62) // McLaurin (118) // Higgins (62) // Fulgham (75, TD) // Hightower (50)
  • Only 4 WRs have reached 20 DK pts vs BAL since the Peters trade
  • Diontae Johnson has a commanding lead in targets (38) in the 3 games he was able to play all the way through
  • Johnson ranks 3rd in targets/route run behind Davante/Keenan
  • Johnson rec:yds:TD in the 3 full games: 6:57:0 // 8:91:1 // 9:80:2
  • Johnson hurt his ankle at the very end of the game, so it’s possible he misses another game
  • When Johnson last missed snaps (Weeks 5-6), Claypool took advantage for a team-high 11 targets & 116 total yds, 4 TDs vs PHI and 4 targets & 81 total yds, TD vs CLE
  • BAL ranks 3rd in explosive pass rate allowed to WRs
  • PIT ranks 23rd in explosive pass rate to WRs
  • Juju has target totals of 6, 8, 5, 5, 4, 14 on the 5th lowest aDOT of qualifying WRs (5.9), and has scored 24.9, 11.8, 16.3, 6.8, 2.6, 17.5 DK pts
  • BAL has gotten attacked through the air via RBs of KC, WAS, CIN: CEH (5 rec 70 yds) // Gibson (4 rec 82 yds) // McKissic (7 rec 40 yds) // Mixon (6 rec 35 yds)
  • Conner has just two games over 20 rec yds this year (40, 29)
  • BAL ranks 6th in RB DK pts allowed
  • Conner has 25 of PIT’s 62 RZ touches, with next closest being Snell at 8 & Ebron at 7, and had scored a TD in 4 straight games before last week
  • BAL has allowed just 1 TD to RBs this season