Balancing act

The Steelers had been waiting for a game in which they would enjoy as much success running the ball as they had against the Browns, but offensive coordinator Matt Canada isn't necessarily expecting that to resonate against the Ravens.

"They're the No. 1 defense in the league against the run," Canada pointed out this morning. "I doubt they're going to do anything much different.

"They've got a real good formula on stopping the run."

The Steelers exploded for a season-high 190 yards rushing, including a season-high 188 from rookie running back Najee Harris, in Monday night's 26-14 victory over the Browns at Heinz Field.

But they're averaging just 94 yards a game on the ground (28th in the NFL) and 3.9 yards per carry (27th) on the season.

And the Ravens, as Canada is well aware, allow an average of just 84.8 rushing yards per contest (No. 1), and 3.9 yards per carry (No. 3).

"We certainly believe we have to run the football," Canada continued. "That's something we've tried to do. In some weeks we've been somewhat effective. In some weeks we haven't been effective. We'll continue to try to do whatever we can to find a way to win the game and the running game has certainly been part of that.

"But we're not naive to the fact we're going in to play against the No. 1 rush defense in the league."

The Ravens will also greet the Steelers on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium with the NFL's No. 32 pass defense.

But the Steelers were unable to consistently drive the ball down the field in the passing game against Cleveland, despite Harris' success on the ground.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished 24-for-46 through the air, but for just 123 yards. The Steelers' 109 net yards passing were their fewest this season, and pushed their streak of netting fewer than 200 in a game to three in a row.

"It's a tough situation," Canada acknowledged. "There's a fine balance of trying to throw the ball down the field but then not putting your linemen in a tough spot, which ultimately puts No. 7 in a tough spot."

Rookie left offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. made it through the Cleveland game despite sustaining an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing on Wednesday.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 18 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens

Left guard John Leglue started his fourth consecutive game (the first four starts of the first-year pro's five-appearance NFL career).

J.C. Hassenauer started at center for the first time this season in place of rookie Kendrick Green (calf). It was Hassenauer's second start in 2021 and the sixth of his two-year Steelers' tenure.

And right guard Trai Turner started but didn't finish (knee). Turner didn't practice on Wednesday, either.

"It's a situation we've tried to balance the best we could," Canada said. "We haven't had the production at times that you would want. It's a line we're trying to work on, everybody involved. The wideouts trying to get loose and Ben trying to do certain things and the line doing all they can do, as well.

"I don't have a great answer for you. It's a tough situation and you try to balance it the best you can so you can get some things down the field and create those plays. Our margin for error is fairly thin with that but everybody's working really hard. We gotta keep doing it and find a way to win this week."

Harris wearing down or out after 31 touches against the Browns and 366 on the season is apparently the least of Canada's concerns.

Harris, Canada maintained, is "built for this."

Harris had 71 yards on 21 carries in the Steelers' 20-19 win over the Ravens on Dec. 5 at Heinz Field.

Canada subsequently maintained "built for this" wasn't saying it "eloquently enough" in describing the first-round pick from Alabama.

"I mean his whole makeup, mentally, physically, his knowledge of the game, his desire," Canada added. "He's such a great competitor. Everything that encompasses, 'Naj' is built for it. As you watch him push the pile, as you watch him make sure he gets a first down, those last extra inches that are so critical to a drive continuing, he does everything he can possibly do and knows where he has to get to.

"We've watched that grow exponentially from the start of the year to now. He's not doing it all by himself and its not all his fault if it doesn't work, but he is such a talent in all aspects."