Blog & Tackle: Where Ravens and Steelers attack and defend so far

October 01, 2010 | Chris Pika

As the Ravens prepare to face Pittsburgh in a AFC North showdown this weekend at Heinz Field, it’s a good time to look at the numbers as to where the Ravens and Steelers run their offenses and where opponents are attacking them in return. Through the stat breakdowns at NFL GSIS, we get a snapshot of the first three weeks of plays.

RAVENS RUSHING: Last year, the Ravens ran mostly up the middle, with balanced run direction on both sides of the center. In 2010, there has been a slight shift to the left side of the offensive line.

Baltimore has run mostly to left guard (21 plays, NFL Rank-2) and left tackle (18 plays-NFL Rank 2). The success is shown at left tackle with a 6.11-yard average per play (NFL Rank-5), while the left guard runs average just 2.33 yards (NFL Rank-25).

The Ravens have gone up the middle just 10 times so far (NFL Rank-28), with a 2.6-yard average (NFL Rank-30). Compare that to 2009, when the Ravens ran 108 times up the middle (NFL Rank-16) and averaged 4.68 yards (NFL Rank-4).

The offense has run to left end (10 plays, NFL Rank-12; 3.1-yard avg., NFL Rank-24), which is as much as right guard (11 plays, NFL Rank-11; 2.45-yard avg., NFL Rank-19). Where they are not running as much is to right tackle (7 plays, NFL Rank-28; 3.0-yard avg., NFL Rank-21) and right end (2 plays, NFL Rank-31; 4.5-yard avg., NFL Rank-15).

STEELERS RUN DEFENSE: The Steelers have been stout on plays run up the middle (0.88-yard average; NFL Defense Rank-2). The only place where they allow more than four yards a carry is at right guard (8 plays, 4.25-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-21).

RAVENS RUN DEFENSE: Last week, the Ravens run defense was shredded by unheralded Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis. So, where are the opponents’ run games testing the line? Baltimore opponents seem to favor running at right guard (19 plays, NFL Rank-3; 4.68-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-25).

Otherwise, the preferred direction is left. Left tackle has been run at 16 times (NFL Rank-5; 6.5-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-30), left guard 12 times (NFL Rank-6; 4.75-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-21) and left end 10 times (NFL Rank-10; 7.9-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-29).

Where do the opponents not want to go? Into Ray Lewis territory, by any means. A total of 7 opponent run plays have gone up the middle (NFL Rank-32) with an average gain of minus-0.43 yards (NFL Defense Rank-1).

STEELERS RUSHING: When Pittsburgh runs, the Steelers have mostly gone up the middle (24 plays. 4.21-yard average), and Pittsburgh is first in the league in average gain on plays run at right tackle (14 plays, 9.71-yard average).

The far right side isn’t in opponent play selection much with 9 runs to right tackle (NFL Rank-20; 4.44-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-23) and just 4 plays to right end (NFL Rank-26). But those four plays have averaged 8.75 yards (NFL Defense Rank-30).

RAVENS PASSING: Looking at these numbers, keep in mind, short is 14 yards or less (including behind the line of scrimmage) and deep is 15 yards or more.

When the Ravens throw short, it’s mainly to the right (40 plays, NFL Rank-9) with an average gain of 4.25 yards (NFL Rank-30). Short left has seen 27 plays (NFL Rank-16) with a 4.78-yard average (NFL Rank-26). Short middle has accounted for 13 plays (NFL Rank-25), with a 5.62-yard average (NFL Rank-21).

When QB Joe Flacco goes deep, it’s equal opportunity left and right. Deep left has 13 plays (NFL Rank-2) with a 10.92-yard average (NFL Rank-14), while deep right has 12 plays (NFL Rank-1) with a 9.33-yard average (NFL Rank-16). Just four plays have gone deep middle (NFL Rank-23) with a 6.75-yard average (NFL Rank-28).

STEELERS PASS DEFENSE: If Flacco can avoid the Pittsburgh pressure, he might want to look down the middle. Steelers opponents have averaged 12.83 yards on 6 plays deep middle. Pittsburgh also allows 8.57 yards deep right and 6.71 yards deep left. Short middle is also a soft spot (6.22 yards), with 4.86 short left, and 5.68 yards short right allowed.

RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: Baltimore’s opponents also tend to go short right with 32 plays (NFL Rank-20) and an average gain of 4.81 yards (NFL Defense Rank-10). Short middle pass plays have been tried 19 times (NFL Rank-13) with a 5.74-yard average (NFL Defense Rank-12). Where the Ravens have slowed teams are on short left passes (17 plays, NFL Rank-30; 4.0-yard avg., NFL Defense Rank-4).

A total of 12 plays have been thrown deep in three games. Seven times, the opponents have gone deep right (NFL Rank-12) with a 2.86-yard average (NFL Defense Rank-4). Deep middle has been the target four times (NFL Rank-22) with a 5.0-yard average (NFL Defense Rank-2). But the surprise is that there has been just one play thrown deep left (NFL Rank-32) with a 0 average gain (NFL Defense Rank-1).

STEELERS PASSING: As you might expect with the quarterback issues Pittsburgh has had, the Steelers are in the bottom half of the league in throws to all six measured areas, including 31st to short left (2.57-yard avg.), and short right (5.55-yard avg.) and exactly 0 throws deep left. Because defenses have been cheating up to stop Pittsburgh’s running, when the Steelers go deep, they have gone for big yards. Five plays each have been run to deep middle and deep right, with average gains of 22.40 yards deep left and 27 yards deep right.