Ben vs. the blitz

The Steelers' response to the NFL's most blitz-heavy defense will start with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his 243 career NFL starts.

The chess game will commence there on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"He's got so many perspectives, so many opportunities to have seen it," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner offered today regarding Roethlisberger's ability to dissect and beat a blitz. "There probably isn't much that you could actually say is new in football that would be new to him.

"He can be surprised, and sometimes you get unique blitzes that challenge a protection scheme. But as a general rule, I think self-preservation to some degree, you know he wants to get the ball out of his hands. He doesn't want to hurt the team by taking sacks or potentially holding the ball a little bit too long.

"I just think that experience, he's just got so much of it that you're not going to fool him. You may beat someone individually and get pressure but as a general rule there isn't pressure that puts him in a panic situation."

The Ravens have blitzed on 46.1 percent of their defensive snaps, a league-leading figure that surpasses even the blitz-happy Steelers' 44.3 percent.

The bigger difference is in volume of potential pass-rushers.

The Steelers have had 10 players account for their NFL-leading 26 sacks this season, including three defensive backs contributing a combined five (nickel cornerback Mike Hilton's three sacks lead the DBs).

The Ravens have had 12 players combine for 22 sacks, including a combined eight from five members of the secondary.

Baltimore made NFL history on Oct. 11 against Cincinnati when five defensive backs registered a sack in a 27-3 victory over the Bengals (cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, and safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott).

Roethlisberger's initial counter figures to be getting the ball out of his hand quickly, as has been his habit this season.

"I think he's seeing the field quick," Fichtner assessed. "He's noticing where there is a possibility to get a ball out of his hands. It isn't always advantageous to have to do that because you might have opportunities that present themselves more down the field.

"We'd like to pride ourselves in being able to catch short and run long. We need to break some tackles. We need to make some people miss."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 8 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore hasn't been shy this season about lining 10 or so players across the line of scrimmage in an effort to disguise who's blitzing and who isn't.

The Ravens don't mind playing press or man-to-man coverage behind that, and they excel at being physical with receivers and punching the ball out after catches.

Elliott forced two fumbles and Humphrey one in Baltimore's 30-28 victory over the Eagles on Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, the last game the Ravens played prior to last weekend's adjusted bye.

The Ravens have an NFL-best eight fumble recoveries and have registered at least one takeaway in 19 consecutive games.

"You're going to have to match their intensity," Fichtner said. "They're strong, they're physical, they like to press and they like to play 'man.' It isn't the only coverage that they play but I think if (the defensive backs) had their wish they would play it every down and think that they could stop you.

"So there comes a detail of release techniques and fundamentals, separation techniques and fundamentals, and then being aggressive when the ball's in the air. If you lack in any one of those areas, it could mean a lost play.

"It presents somewhat clear pictures at times for the quarterback, you just gotta have winners. I feel really good about where we're at with our wide receivers."