There's an old research report I read several years ago that I truly believe in. And basically what it says is this: If you take a highly accurate quarterback and hit him hard five times or more, that quarterback will drop in accuracy by a considerable margin.
In almost all cases, five hard hits made great quarterbacks good. Good quarterbacks average and average quarterbacks below average. There was only one outlier studied that didn't adhere to diminishing numbers under a pounding duress.
With that in mind, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a huge performance from their raptor-like, apex predator, TJ Watt (with huge respect to Cam Heyward while he recuperates), who will tangle in the "Classic Jurrasic Meat Eater Matchup" with the Ravens' 6-foot-6, 320-pound, 10-year veteran offensive tackle Morgan Moses. And if it's not Moses, it will be the gargantuan wooly mammoth that is 6-foot-8, 380-pound second-year pro Daniel Faalele.
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson is on a tear right now. He just registered the first two passing-two rushing touchdown game of his six-year career last week versus the Cleve Brownies. He's throwing the rock at a personal completion percentage that's an all-time high for him. He's second only in the league to the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen. He's also sporting the lowest interception rate of his career.
But here's his Achilles' heel. In three games (Jackson is 1-2 versus the Steelers) he's started, the Steelers have sacked him 16 times. That's a lot of heat in the kitchen. When Jackson is pressured and running for his life, his completion percentage drops below 50%. On the flip-side, when he's clean, and none of the Steelers predators on the hunt is snapping at his heels, his completion percentage rises to 83%. The answer is obvious. The Steelers have to get after Lamar Jackson.
And this is where the Steelers need Watt to shine. He's on a personal sack streak of eight games in a row with a sack versus the Ravens.
Moses may or may not be available at kickoff. If the job of lining up across from Watt falls to Faalele, the job is the same, but the technique may be altered some. This is due to the fact Moses is a been-there, done-that, dinosaur, and Faalele has only posted one career start, and that was in the 2022 season.
And the height and weight of Faalele will make such techniques such as the swim (or arm-over) a less-than-desirable choice than say, a good ghost move. One of the duties of the day is to make sure pass-rush lanes are strictly adhered to. Meaning throwing a spin move into the mix, where you have your back to Jackson, is a Bozo no-no.
Also consider the importance of maintaining run-gap responsibilities, because not only has Jackson recorded the most 100-yard rushing games in NFL history by a quarterback, but he's carrying the mail on 21% of all of Baltimore's rushing attempts.
Even amongst dinosaurs, Faalele is a monster. He's not the most fleet of foot, and sometimes moves like a cruise ship turning around in a small harbor.
One of the best ways to get after a young buck who may or may not get off at the snap of the ball, is to raise the roof with noise during the game. That's right, it's up to Steelers Nation to show up, show out and make life tough on the dirty birds when they have the ball. Timing the snap and getting a jump on the opponent across the line of scrimmage from you is a big part of being a sack monster maniac.
And let's face it, raptors hunt in packs. Going into this weekend, the Steelers have the second-highest pressure rate in the league. So the rest of the pack needs to show up big, because the best way to make Jackson's life miserable, to turn him into a less-than-accurate quarterback, is to put him in the dirt once, twice, let's just say five times or more!
And by the way, the one outlier to the study that didn't get less accurate, didn't wilt under the pressure of multiple hits despite taking a beat down? You might have guessed it already. That would be a guy nicknamed Big Ben.
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger. Funny how that didn't surprise me either … just saying.