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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Ravens-Steelers: I Need to Pick Your Brains

    I'm just getting started on the Ravens and Steelers tapes and won't be able to get to the first match-up between these teams until Thursday. How did the Ravens beat them that badly? If you are fans of these two teams I have a few other questions as well.

    1) Why is Cam Cameron so hated as the offensive coordinator for the Ravens?
    2) Is Hines Ward in danger of losing his starting role with the play of the young receivers?
    3) How are the Steelers the number one pass defense without James Harrison and James Farrior? I know they have Ike Taylor and Troy, but without their key pass rushers that seems surprising.
    4) Are the Ravens transitioning the way the Steelers were a few years ago, a team that traditionally runs that is now converting to the shotgun passing style of offense?

    Thanks for the help. CC

    Comments 23 Comments
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Others here know more, but my .02 on #3.

      - Less blitzing more coverage. Breaking long held tendancies.
      - Gay keeps things in front of him.
      - Woodley peaking.
      - Ike and Troy doing well.
    1. rph127's Avatar
      Are you going to be sharing some of your Inside the NFL salary with the rest of us for these insights?

      #2 - I don't think Hines will lose his starting job until he retires. He wields entirely too much influence in the locker room. However, I do think his snaps will go down from here on out, making his status as a "Starter" basically inconsequential. He just doesn't have the skillset anymore that the youngsters have. I still think he has a role on this team though, as he can find a hole in a zone better than any other skill player on the team.

      #3 - Simply, it's the play of the corners, and the coaches allowing them to play more press coverage. Ike Taylor is having his best year by far, William Gay has improved tremendously, and the younger corners are playing especially well (Keenan Lewis and rookie Cortez Allen). I have no special inside info, but my suspicion is the coaching of Carnell Lake.
    1. trh5001's Avatar
      1)cameron is hated for running a style of offense the ravens aren't suited for. Ray rice is the best offensive player on that team he needs the ball more. Also need to call more short routes over the middle to get flacco in a rhythm not these intermediate to long routes on the outside he always seems to call.

      2)hines ward wont lose his job as he is too respected but he should tell the coaches he would accept a diminished role if he is as team first of a player as he claims

      3)part of it has been the teams they have played just not being good passing teams. The other part has been the better play of their secondary.

      4)the ravens are trying to be a pass first team that unfortunately for them has a running back in ray rice who should really be getting the ball more than he does.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      As a Bengals fan, I hate both teams, but from what I've seen, the Ravens want to be a team that they're not. Joe Flacco isn't the kind of QB that can find consistent success with throwing it 50 times and a lot of deep routes. Rice is the playmaker both running, and on short passing routes.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      1) Because he's not any good? Honestly, I think trh hit it on the head. He's running his offense as opposed to running what actually appears to be best for the team. It's possible he's simply trying to develop the passing game so that Flacco can gain confidence for when they need him late in the year, and in the playoffs. They also have young TE and Torrey Smith who they're trying to get involved, so that could play a role. I'd also guess they're trying not to wear Rice out so he's fresh for a big 2nd half of the year. I suspect that as the season goes on, perhaps as soon as this week, that Ray Rice will start carrying a full share of the load with 20-25 carries, and 3-5 receptions on a weekly basis.

      Side note. Steeler fans (myself included) hate Bruce Arians. We feel the Steelers offense, which has as much talent as any in the league, is erratic solely because of him. If he hits on one big play early (see the Jacksonville game), he will then forego the game plan and try to hit on big plays the rest of the game, and those plays are way too unreliable. Against NE, I thought that was the best gameplan he's come up with, perfectly utilizing his strength against their weakness. I hope that continues. But the only difference between Arians and Cameron is that at least Arians has the weaponry to bail out his horrendous playcalling.

      2) Eventually, and it will make them a better team not only because Sanders and Brown are both very good, but because Hines is such a team guy, he's ok with it. He will still be involved, and I think that part of the reason Heath Miller had such success on Sunday is because he's the one who was taking over Hines' underneath looks. (that play where Miller releases from the line on the snap, slants at a 45 degree angle toward the outside hash ending in the slot position, and then immediately slants back in toward the middle of the field is a thing of beauty)

      Ward will start and play significantly because of his impact blocking, and he's still a master in the slot against zone defenses, but Hines' biggest contribution to that team has always been as a player coach. Every receiver that goes through that system since he's been there has become a complete receiver, and a willing/effective blocker. Hines Ward and Heath Miller, in my opinion, are the two most selfless players in the league.

      And since I brought it up, it deserves its own paragraph, but not enough gets mentioned about Heath Miller being THE best all-around TE in the game, willing and able to play any role that they need him to play.

      3) It's never about personnel at the LB position. The Steelers know exactly what type of player they need, and always have depth at LB full of guys with the skills to perform the tasks that need to be performed. The change from the first few weeks of the season is the DL. Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton were shells of themselves at the beginning of the year. Once they were replaced in the lineup with healthy bodies, the Steelers defense started looking like the Steelers defense again. Ziggy Hood has been able to successfully replace Smith, who unfortunately appears that his career is over. Once Keisel returned following the Texans game, and Steve McClendon filled in capably at NT, everything else started working. Now Hampton's finally healthy, and looked solid in his first game back against NE, giving them an additional boon. The pass rush has looked better ever since, and their run defense has now been back to their expected level for the past 3 weeks.

      The secondary has been fantastic all year. Ike Taylor is playing the best football of his career AFTER he got paid in the offseason (who knew?), and the other CBs are stepping up. They haven't been making big plays, partly because Polamalu may have lost a quarter of a step, but they've also been allowing nothing through the air.

      4) See #1. I fully expect that Rice will be getting his share, and then some in the second half of the season. If not, Baltimore will be looking for a new OC in the offseason, much to the chagrin of fans all around the rest of the AFC North.
    1. OverTheTop's Avatar
      Strategic points entering my mind heading into this week's matchup.

      1. The Ravens gave Casey Hampton fits with the amount of cut blocking from the backside guard in week 1. Kiesel was athletic enough to take a hop-step backward or side to side in order to avoid getting his knees taken out but that also caused him to be out of position when Ray Rice would cut back. Anxious to see if the Steelers can counter-attack the stretch runs.

      2. Speaking of the Ravens rushing attack... In previous years the Ravens would use an unbalanced line at the start of a drive or in a short yardage situation. This would cause steelers linebackers to overpersue on the strong side, thus having the same effectiveness level as a stretch n' cutback run. Cameron does a good job of setting up TE and HB screens out of an unbalanced formation. We didn't see much of this in week 1 and I expect that wrinkle to be added again on Sunday night.

      To touch on Cris' question about Steelers WR roles: Hines Ward could lose his starting role officially but still be on the field for 30-40 offensive snaps. 15-20 plays in long down and distance situations when they go 4 or 5 wide and another 20 running plays ( He's still an awesome blocker ).
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      1) Because he repeatedly refuses to install a gameplan and run an offensive scheme that fits the abilities of his players and team. With a struggling offensive line and average receivers this year, he has seemed determined to implement a passing attack that focuses on routes that takes forever to develop and leaves his QB either running for his life or forced to make a tough pass. The game against the Cardinals was the first time since week one that the TEs Dickson and Pitta were prominently involved in the offense, and they are the best receivers on the team by far after Boldin and Rice - injured Lee Evans notwithstanding. And don't even get me started on his refusal to feed Ray Rice in the running game.

      2) I cannot say much on this one, other than no. If only because I still don't know if Antonio Brown is any good or just making flashes in the pan, and because Emmanuel Sanders has been largely M.I.A.

      3) By facing the illustrious passing attacks of the Jaguars, Colts, Cardinals, and Seahawks? They're not the number one pass defense. They're good, but not the best by any means.

      4) Come hell or high water this seems to be what Cameron intends, except that most of his infuriating work doesn't come from the shotgun as opposed to under center dropbacks. This is ironic since Flacco seems to excel in the shotgun with quick developing plays, which is what he ran all the time at Delaware. The Steelers also still run the ball because their offense has balance, and that's a concept that seems to be over Cameron's head.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by rph127 View Post
      Are you going to be sharing some of your Inside the NFL salary with the rest of us for these insights?

      #2 - I don't think Hines will lose his starting job until he retires. He wields entirely too much influence in the locker room. However, I do think his snaps will go down from here on out, making his status as a "Starter" basically inconsequential. He just doesn't have the skillset anymore that the youngsters have. I still think he has a role on this team though, as he can find a hole in a zone better than any other skill player on the team.

      #3 - Simply, it's the play of the corners, and the coaches allowing them to play more press coverage. Ike Taylor is having his best year by far, William Gay has improved tremendously, and the younger corners are playing especially well (Keenan Lewis and rookie Cortez Allen). I have no special inside info, but my suspicion is the coaching of Carnell Lake.
      I will share my current Fox salary with you. I wonder if the press coverage was just for NE or will it carry forward. Completely new look for Steelers. Troy lurking in the middle was fun to watch.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Trumpetbdw View Post
      1) Because he's not any good? Honestly, I think trh hit it on the head. He's running his offense as opposed to running what actually appears to be best for the team. It's possible he's simply trying to develop the passing game so that Flacco can gain confidence for when they need him late in the year, and in the playoffs. They also have young TE and Torrey Smith who they're trying to get involved, so that could play a role. I'd also guess they're trying not to wear Rice out so he's fresh for a big 2nd half of the year. I suspect that as the season goes on, perhaps as soon as this week, that Ray Rice will start carrying a full share of the load with 20-25 carries, and 3-5 receptions on a weekly basis.

      Side note. Steeler fans (myself included) hate Bruce Arians. We feel the Steelers offense, which has as much talent as any in the league, is erratic solely because of him. If he hits on one big play early (see the Jacksonville game), he will then forego the game plan and try to hit on big plays the rest of the game, and those plays are way too unreliable. Against NE, I thought that was the best gameplan he's come up with, perfectly utilizing his strength against their weakness. I hope that continues. But the only difference between Arians and Cameron is that at least Arians has the weaponry to bail out his horrendous playcalling.

      2) Eventually, and it will make them a better team not only because Sanders and Brown are both very good, but because Hines is such a team guy, he's ok with it. He will still be involved, and I think that part of the reason Heath Miller had such success on Sunday is because he's the one who was taking over Hines' underneath looks. (that play where Miller releases from the line on the snap, slants at a 45 degree angle toward the outside hash ending in the slot position, and then immediately slants back in toward the middle of the field is a thing of beauty)

      Ward will start and play significantly because of his impact blocking, and he's still a master in the slot against zone defenses, but Hines' biggest contribution to that team has always been as a player coach. Every receiver that goes through that system since he's been there has become a complete receiver, and a willing/effective blocker. Hines Ward and Heath Miller, in my opinion, are the two most selfless players in the league.

      And since I brought it up, it deserves its own paragraph, but not enough gets mentioned about Heath Miller being THE best all-around TE in the game, willing and able to play any role that they need him to play.

      3) It's never about personnel at the LB position. The Steelers know exactly what type of player they need, and always have depth at LB full of guys with the skills to perform the tasks that need to be performed. The change from the first few weeks of the season is the DL. Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton were shells of themselves at the beginning of the year. Once they were replaced in the lineup with healthy bodies, the Steelers defense started looking like the Steelers defense again. Ziggy Hood has been able to successfully replace Smith, who unfortunately appears that his career is over. Once Keisel returned following the Texans game, and Steve McClendon filled in capably at NT, everything else started working. Now Hampton's finally healthy, and looked solid in his first game back against NE, giving them an additional boon. The pass rush has looked better ever since, and their run defense has now been back to their expected level for the past 3 weeks.

      The secondary has been fantastic all year. Ike Taylor is playing the best football of his career AFTER he got paid in the offseason (who knew?), and the other CBs are stepping up. They haven't been making big plays, partly because Polamalu may have lost a quarter of a step, but they've also been allowing nothing through the air.

      4) See #1. I fully expect that Rice will be getting his share, and then some in the second half of the season. If not, Baltimore will be looking for a new OC in the offseason, much to the chagrin of fans all around the rest of the AFC North.
      Steelers hurting at LBer. They got away with playing the Dime v. NE, but Baltimore will probably try to run based on what they saw from Sylvester at Inside LBer.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by KabaModernFan View Post
      1) Because he repeatedly refuses to install a gameplan and run an offensive scheme that fits the abilities of his players and team. With a struggling offensive line and average receivers this year, he has seemed determined to implement a passing attack that focuses on routes that takes forever to develop and leaves his QB either running for his life or forced to make a tough pass. The game against the Cardinals was the first time since week one that the TEs Dickson and Pitta were prominently involved in the offense, and they are the best receivers on the team by far after Boldin and Rice - injured Lee Evans notwithstanding. And don't even get me started on his refusal to feed Ray Rice in the running game.

      2) I cannot say much on this one, other than no. If only because I still don't know if Antonio Brown is any good or just making flashes in the pan, and because Emmanuel Sanders has been largely M.I.A.

      3) By facing the illustrious passing attacks of the Jaguars, Colts, Cardinals, and Seahawks? They're not the number one pass defense. They're good, but not the best by any means.

      4) Come hell or high water this seems to be what Cameron intends, except that most of his infuriating work doesn't come from the shotgun as opposed to under center dropbacks. This is ironic since Flacco seems to excel in the shotgun with quick developing plays, which is what he ran all the time at Delaware. The Steelers also still run the ball because their offense has balance, and that's a concept that seems to be over Cameron's head.
      Antonio Brown was very impressive. Sanders had a great block. Ward still the best blocker and a lot of offense built around that.
    1. Turk Schonert's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris Collinsworth View Post
      I will share my current Fox salary with you. I wonder if the press coverage was just for NE or will it carry forward. Completely new look for Steelers. Troy lurking in the middle was fun to watch.
      That was a strategy to stop Wes Welker's option routes and all of New England's rub/pick routes. Without a legitimate deep threat New England had few answers.
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Not a Steelers fan but I really like their legacy. "NFL Replay" has them on now. Here's what I think I think [Thanks for letting me steal that line Peter King]:

      1) Cam Cameron is hated because of the way he utilizes the players. Kaba's head exploded MANY Times when they stuck McGahee in and not their younger, featured back Ray Rice. Also, I felt like they could have been more explosive over the Cardinals at home this past Sunday.

      2) Hines is Cool with me; He's just one Cool dude with a couple Super Bowl rings and such honors. But the time has come in this and next season. We'll start to see the transition to more Wallace and more Brown and also more development and plays from Sanders. Gotta respect those who came before you but Hines is not going to be featured at Heinz soon.

      3) The key on defense MUST start with Dick Lebeau. LOVE his pedigree in the game. Bro Man is such a legend; Remember when Steeler players and coaches went up to see him get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame As A Player!! Great Stuff!! This is in addition to other key guys like Lamar Woodley and James Farrior [when healthy] as they are able to make plays as needed. These men on defense along with Ryan Clark helped to disrupt the Brady-Bill Show. Nice Program interruption.

      4) I think the addition of Anquan Boldin was a MAD pick up for them. Man can still ball and I saw on "NFL Replay" that 'Quan or Q got the game ball. I love how humble he is and how key he is to the offense. Larry is ballin out in ARI but I expect this Ravens offense to make waves with Boldin's game in their pass offense. Also, remember how the Ravens FINALLY got Boldin rollin' in the second half of MNF last week in JAC? That was a much needed spark. I expect that during in-game slumps and when they are already rollin.

      P.S. I really like and respect you Cris; I've always been a fan but when I read above that you made a "FOX" mention I couldn't help but notice that your last FOX assignment was covering my Eagles losing to the New England Patriots! Sad times there but Here's Hopin' for this year. *Sobs uncontrollably thinking of McNabb's game closing INT*
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      2. Hines will remain a starter in the same vain as David Johnson is a starter. We rarely even use a fb, but hines will get more plays. But they will be situational plays. He will be on the field when what he does best is what we are trying to accomplish. Either him blocking, or finding a hole in the zone for a 1st down pick up. Brown lining up wide opposite Wallace changes the entire defensive game plan. They can no longer roll coverage to take the top off Wallace. They have to respect the speed on both sides, and play it straight up. That opens things up for both guys. You saw that in the Arizona game with no hines, and again against the pats. They played super deep, and when they didn't Wallace burned them for a 95 yard reception. And when he wasn't making a play brown quietly had a 100 yard day, and then in the pats game kept moving the chains. Not to mention the sick catches he made in each game. This kid is no flash in the pan, he's the real deal.

      Hines is one of my top 5 all time steelers, I love the guy. And because of that he gets the start and gets those situational snaps, until his skill level slips and he can no longer execute those things. I believe he will one day be in the hall of fame, hes a truly great player, and an even better person, but brown is the better player right now. He should get more snaps.

      3. The steelers are the number #1 pass defense without Harrison and farrior for a few different reasons. Ike Taylor is playing out of his mind this year. He's allowing 2.5 rec and 25 yards per game. He plays man up cover zero a lot of the times on the other teams best receiver. That allows the rest of the back 7 to concentrate elsewhere. Ike has has covered Welker, Wayne, Fitzgerald, and A. Johnson during that stretch. Seems to me Pittsburgh got more for their money on that contract than philly got for asomugha, or the jets got for revis. If ike could ever intercept a ball he might get the recognition he deserves. Meh, he may never catch one, but as long as he keeps the other teams guy from doing so I'm all good with it!

      Keisel and Woodley have stepped up huge at getting the pressure they miss from losing Harrison. Both have played at pro bowl form.

      William gay has looked tons better this year, he's really improved. This is one instance the extended lock out may have helped a player. Gay worked out with ike all offseason. It seems to have worked. He's a solid #2, after being a bad #3 last year. I haven't had to invent curses about his play this year, as I did last year. Huge turnaround for the guy.

      The front end coverage has allowed troy tons of ability to freelance, while troys robin, Ryan Clark, has kept him covered on the back end. Add to that I think carnell lake has coached this unit up, big time. We used just about every member of the defensive backfield against new England, even rookies, and special teams mavens. The coverage was so good it left Brady flustered, and allowed the front 4 to get home and apply tons of pressure.

      And finally, I think most important is Lebeau. It's clear to me the extra time he had in the offseason was spent fixing the Achilles heel of this scheme last year. Every elite qb shredded us last year throwing the rock. He changed small parts of it prior, but totally flipped the script against new England. Thank god he did, our pass d saved us with the poor start we got at stopping the run, with underwhelming starts by smith and Hampton, then the injuries to keisel. Seems with keisel healthy, the big snack back to being himself after taking some time off, and hood replacing smith we may have figured out stopping the run again too. Lebeau is a mastermind, perhaps the best d coordinator ever.

      Anyone saying this isn't the best pass d in the league is ridiculous, just using the opposition as a measuring stick in a vacuum. Sure we played Seattle and shut them down, but another very good top 5 defense, Cincinnati allowed tavaris Jackson to throw for 300+ in relief. It's the NFL, and the rule of any given Sunday applies. It's especially silly to say after they held Brady who was averaging almost 400yds a game to under 200yds.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Cris,

      Heres a pertinent question.. how does Pittsburgh counteract the fact 3 out of 4 of our starting lbs are probably going to sit, along with the top olb back up, with the only member of the top 4 playing out of position. And timmons is not done a thing at that position. Thank god Woodley blossomed quickly at olb from the same draft class, or Pittsburgh would have its 1st first round bust in a long time. Timmons isn't an olb. He's had zero impact. He's a beast ilb.

      How does Pittsburgh stop the runs we know are coming our way? The back ups are ok, but they aren't Harrison, Woodley, and farrior. They are like 3 rungs below that level, at least.

      I think it has to be playing offense as the best defense. Spread the ravens like we spread the pats and play keep away. Score early and often. Take the ball from rices hands and firmly put it in flaccos. Flacco can't beat Ben without the benefit of 7 turnovers. That won't happen again, because if we play the quick drop game, there's no time for suggs to kill us like he always does. Keep our offense on the field and kill the clock. Force flacco to beat us.

      If we don't play a similar game plan to last week ill be sorely disappointed.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      The Steelers had 7 turnovers in that first matchup, uncharacteristic self destruction. I would come out in 4 wides and spread the field vs. Pittsburgh. This gets Casey Hampton off the field and gets bodies out of the box. Then I would test my receivers ability to block and run the football down their throats some. The man/free type scheme Le Beau used vs. NE to press Welker and disrupt timing between he and Brady was brilliant. Someone has to beat bump and run and get a free release for Brady don't they? That strategy by LeBeau was the biggest story of the week. Gives the Steelers another dimension you have to prepare for to attack their defense.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      I think Kaba and Trumpet have largely hit upon number 3 pretty solidly. Strength of schedule is always a factor in overall defensive rankings. The New England game was a great defensive effort, and Buckeye pointed out the third reason, and really aren't there always three? Dick Lebeau is the best defensive coordinator out there.
    1. sterkin's Avatar
      #3 I personally think the new DBcoach Carnell Lake has a lot to do with it, especially William Gay's huge step forward.
    1. chris's Avatar
      I think one other thing that has been somewhat overlooked is the offensive line settled down after Starks was resigned.The ability to run has improved since week 5 and has bought Ben a little more time to throw off of playaction.I'm still surprised to see a team have the best record in their conference,but be last in the league in turnover differential at -10....
    1. RenoHightower's Avatar
      1. The B-more offense is/has been inconsistent for so long now that he gets the ire of the fans. Nothing more than that. If they would string together a few quality outings the chatter would die down.

      2. He should be reduced to a situational type role player like Bettis was later in his career. I LOVE Hines Ward but with speed lined up on both sides you can't bring a safety up in run support as easily as you can with Hines out there. He's still money in the red zone though. If he played last week one of those field goals was probably a TD. Plus, he has been a real asset as a mentor to the young guys. Talk about a dude that leads by example.

      3. New secondary coach Carnell Lake. Look at the development of Keenan Lewis and William Gay. The same William Gay that everybody in Pittsburgh wanted shipped out after the SB. Lewis couldn't sniff the field last year and now he's playing consistently well.

      4. As a Steeler fan, I hope they are transitioning to a passing offense. Flacco has shown that he can win but I would like to see the onus be more upon him than the running game. Not that he can't develop into a player that can get it done but, I don't think that he's there yet. In the opener, Ray Rice was running wild. In past losses to Pittsburgh, the Steelers would make Flacco try to beat them. His numbers have not been good when asked to do that.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by sterkin View Post
      #3 I personally think the new DBcoach Carnell Lake has a lot to do with it, especially William Gay's huge step forward.
      Never even thought of that. McFadden picked on in first match-up. Gay and now Cortez Allen getting a lot of snaps. Could we see a change in Steelers' style of defense based on Patriot success. Ravens have struggled v. bump.