Already with 79 rushing yards through three quarters in Pittsburgh, Ravens running back Justin Forsett thought his number might be called more often with Steve Smith exiting with a lower back injury.
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman did exactly that as Forsett carried 14 times for 71 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime of Baltimore’s 23-20 win over the Steelers. After the early-season struggles of the ground attack and injuries to Smith and Michael Campanaro as well as the absence of tight end Crockett Gillmore, the running game couldn’t have come alive at a better time.
“I was hoping that they would lean on me a little bit and give me the opportunity,” Forsett told reporters in Pittsburgh after the game. “They did so, and we were able to get some runs in and gash them a little bit. I think the run game was effective every time we were out there.”
With the Ravens down to just three receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and rookie Darren Waller — late in the game, Trestman’s commitment to the running game and its productivity were the most encouraging developments of Thursday’s win. With the status of Smith, Gillmore, and Campanaro remaining murky for the Week 5 game against Cleveland, the Ravens may need to lean on their running game more than ever.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Baltimore had averaged just 3.3 yards per carry during its 0-3 start with most of that success coming from the shotgun formation against Oakland in Week 2. However, the Ravens were able to run for 191 yards on 39 attempts against the Steelers, a 4.9 yards per carry average that bested all but three of their single-game marks a season ago.
A single win doesn’t erase the worst start in franchise history, but the Ravens recapturing their 2014 success on the ground would go a long way in bringing hope as the passing game remains a work in progress. And their ability to run against a defense that had ranked 10th in the NFL against the run should provide plenty of confidence for the offensive line.