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Numbers game

They're well aware who No. 8 is for Ravens, but that's the only extent to which the Steelers will acknowledge having Lamar Jackson's number.

"We don't have his number," defensive coordinator Keith Butler insisted. "Dadgum, the kid is a great football player.

"He was MVP last year. I don't think anybody has his number."

Perhaps not, but Jackson hasn't posted MVP-caliber numbers in his two starts against the Steelers.

He went 19-for-28 passing for 161 yards, with one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 54.9, and was sacked five times in the Ravens' 26-23 overtime victory over the Steelers on Oct. 6, 2019 at Heinz Field.

And Jackson completed 13 of 28 passes for 208 yards, with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 65.8, and was sacked four times in the Steelers' 28-24 victory this season on Nov. 1 in Baltimore. Jackson also fumbled three times and the Steelers recovered two of them.

The November encounter included Jackson being tackled after a gain of 2 yards on third-and-5 from the Steelers' 10-yard line just outside the two-minute warning (nose tackle Isaiah Buggs), and Jackson being stopped after another 2-yard gain on fourth-and-3 from the Steelers' 8 just inside the two-minute warning (Buggs and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick).

The Steelers' victory wasn't secured until Fitzpatrick batted away Jackson's last-gasp pass into the end zone on second-and-10 from the Steelers' 23 with five seconds remaining.

"We stopped him when we had to but we don't have his number by any means." Butler maintained.

Whatever success the Steelers have had against Jackson has resulted from a group effort in head coach Mike Tomlin's estimation, as any success in at least containing Jackson must.

"You better get multiple people running and running hard and playing with great urgency and energy when you are combatting people with unique talents," Tomlin said. "I think that's where it starts for us."

Jackson and the Ravens will arrive at Heinz Field for Thursday night's rematch with the Steelers with the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense but without running baks J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram (Reserve/COVID-19 list).

The Steelers are No. 7 in the NFL in total defense, No. 4 in rushing defense and No. 1 in scoring defense (17.4 points per game).

Perhaps more significantly, they're No. 1 in the NFL with 21 takeaways and at a league-best plus 12 in takeaway/giveaway.

"We want to try to put (Jackson) in uncomfortable situations if we can," Butler said. "Mike (Tomlin) really emphasizes all the time, be ball-aware, ball-aware, ball-aware.

"We were fortunate enough to have the (four) interceptions that we had, probably should have had one or two more in our last football game (last Sunday at Jacksonville), so we can improve in that aspect of our game. We still need to get the ball back. Our turnover-takeaway ratio is always big in terms of winning and losing.

"If you look at everybody in the league, probably that one stat might be as important as any other stat that you have. For us, if we can keep getting the turnovers it's always going to help us."

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