Scouting the Steelers: WRs thrive on the scramble

Scouting the Steelers: WRs thrive on the scramble
October 18, 2013, 11:00 am
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Ravens talk about rivalry with Steelers

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has seen enough of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger over the years to know that pressuring Big Ben isn't even half the battle. Until he is on the ground, the play isn't over. And Pees said that while Roethlisberger is scrambling around, fighting off a tackle and improvising on the fly, it is imperative for the Ravens secondary to stay with receivers.

Year in and year out, the Steelers have "the best group of receivers ... (in terms) of getting open off of scramble," Pees said at his weekly news conference on Thursday as the Ravens prepared to face the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.

This season, that group is led by Antonio Brown, who ranks second in the league in receptions (41) and seventh in receiving yards (498). Emmanuel Sanders has 23 catches, while Jericho Cotchery and tight end Heath Miller, who missed the first two games, each have 15.

"Once (Roethlisberger) extends plays, that's when those guys become even more dangerous," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "They're able to use their shiftiness to just get open. They know how to just find that open spot. ... They do it better than anyone I've seen."

Any of them, plus a running back kept in to block, are potential targets once Roethlisberger starts to scramble.

"I've seen too many times where a guy has got the back, the back blocks, so this guy takes off for Ben because he sees Ben scrambling, and then the back slips out and Ben flips him the ball," Pees said. "A hundred times I've seen it over the years.

"Well, if I've got that guy, I've got that guy," he added. "And if it's a zone, I've got to find the guy in my zone, and I've got to go plaster him. I've got to get to him. If Ben gains 100 yards rushing, he gains 100 yards rushing. But you can't come out of coverage on the guy."

The key to coverage, Pees and players said, is to not watch Roethlisberger too closely.

"If you're watching Ben, you're watching the wrong thing," Pees said.

Webb agreed.    

"You've gotta keep your eyes off him," Webb said. "You have to play this game without looking at Ben. ... The more you see him, you're eyes are not on what they need to be on.

"Let them (the front seven) handle him," he added. "I need to handle the guy that's in front of me."