Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM
The Ravens host their division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) this Sunday in an attempt to wipe out the memory of the crapfest they played last week in London.
The Steelers are coming off an unexpected loss to the Bears in which Chicago just obliterated the Steel Curtain run defense. Pretty sure you’ll see the Ravens offense go to school off that game tape and go run-heavy early.
With defensive end Brent Urban’s season-ending Lisfranc foot injury, Bronson Kaufusi could be the man stepping into Urban’s starting role, which means the Ravens will be concerned about stopping the Steelers’ run game, too, as well as setting the edges.
The Ravens drafted Kaufusi, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound monster out of Brigham Young University in the third round of 2016’s NFL Draft. But just like Urban, who missed his entire rookie season because of a torn ACL, Kaufusi lost his rookie year when he broke his ankle in training camp. Kaufusi had not been activated for a regular season game yet this season.
“There’s definitely a feeling of urgency because I got hurt last year and I want to contribute,” Kafusi said. “I just take whatever reps I get and I go full speed, full out. Every week I prepare like I’m going to play so I’m ready. At any moment, you can get called into battle.”
The Ravens could also call on rookie defensive tackle Chris Wormley to help. Wormley is tall enough and light enough to swing over to the defensive end position. A third-round pick out of Michigan, Wormley has also been a healthy scratch for the Ravens’ first three games.
By the way, the Ravens will wear their black jerseys against their arch rivals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The black jerseys have been good luck, as the Ravens are 16-6 all-time while wearing them, including 13-3 under head coach John Harbaugh. Last season, the Ravens broke them out in victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.
Under league rules, teams are permitted to wear their alternate uniforms twice a year.
As far as holding down Big Ben’s passing game is concerned, there are two Ravens defensive backs who got high grades last week in pass coverage against the Jaguars—veteran corner Jimmy Smith and rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
While many Ravens had a rough game in London, Humphrey got the defense’s highest marks, per Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com.
“Humphrey has been targeted five times so far this season, per PFF. He’s given up just one catch for 3 yards and broke up two passes. Quarterbacks have a 39.6 rating when throwing in his direction.
“Humphrey has been successful by getting right up in wide receivers’ grills. He gets his hands on them early to try to throw off their timing and disrupt the route, then mirrors them down the field. It’s the kind of coverage the Ravens have needed for years.”
“I love his demeanor. I love how it hasn’t been too big for him,” veteran safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s physical at the line of scrimmage. He can run with anyone, I mean, the guy can fly. .. He has a bright future.”
The Ravens loved Humphrey’s athleticism and physicality when they made him the 16th-overall pick. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds (faster than many receivers) and has great size at 6-foot-0, 197 pounds. On paper, he’s the prototypical cornerback.
“He’s exactly what we’ve expected him to be: he’s smart; he’s tough; he has the talents; he has all the types of physical abilities to play the type of corner that we want to play with,” Harbaugh said.
Combining physical ability with staying cool under pressure is the recipe you need if you want to keep up with defending against the Steelers’ passing game. The Steelers have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league.
Everybody in Baltimore knows what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is capable of, and Antonio Brown once again leads the NFL in receiving yards (354). Pittsburgh also has deep threat Martavis Bryant and a couple of talented young receivers in Eli Rogers and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.