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Deep trouble: Steelers have been susceptible to downfield passing game

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Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons vs. Ravens RB Ray Rice

MATCHUP: The Ravens like to use Rice in the passing game against a linebacker and especially out of a no-huddle set. They did just that during their first meeting with the Steelers. Rice was targeted five times, and he caught four passes for 27 yards. The Ravens threw at Timmons seven times in that first meeting.


TIMMONS: He set a franchise record in tackles (20) the last time he played the Ravens despite suffering a broken hand early in the fourth quarter. Timmons has been targeted a lot lately — 23 times over the past three games; he allowed 15 receptions. Timmons leads the team with 108 tackles. Timmons is on pace for a career-high 157 tackles.


RICE: He isn't having his best year running the ball but still has proven to be an invaluable weapon in the passing game. Rice leads the NFL in catches for a running back since 2008 (348) and is second in the league in yards (2,888). Rice has 37 catches this season for 175 yards. In 10 starts against the Steelers, Rice has 35 catches for 310 yards and one touchdown.

—Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly podcasts

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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Steelers have not been good in defending the long pass this year.

They've allowed 20 passes of 25 yards or longer, including an 81-yarder to the Patriots, a 79-yarder to the Lions and a 51-yarder to the Vikings.

The Steelers have allowed a pass of 25 yards or longer in all but two games this year, and the Ravens — their opponent Thursday — like to go deep with regularity.

With speedsters Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith at their disposal, the Ravens have one of the most prolific deep-passing games in the league.

Joe Flacco has the third-most attempts in the NFL this season of passes that travel 20 yards or longer (57), and he attempts a deep pass every 14.1 times he drops back.

Smith has eight receptions for 353 yards on pass attempts down the field and has been targeted 30 times, but it is Jones who might be the most dangerous when the Twins Strong Left Gun X Post is called.

Jones missed a month with a sprained right knee but has caught 21 passes for 263 yards.

The Twins Strong Left Gun X Post almost burned the Steelers the last time the teams met in October.

The Ravens line up in the shotgun strong side left, with tight end Dallas Clark at the end of the line of scrimmage.

Smith is split wide right with Tandon Doss in the slot to the right side of the formation with Jones split out far left. Running back Ray Rice is to the right of Flacco.

With the Ravens in the three wide receiver set, defenses will counter with their nickel or dime defense to get more defensive backs on the field.

What the Ravens want to do is isolate the speedy Jones on a cornerback with no over-the-top help.

At the snap, Smith runs a go pattern down the right side that typically draws the safety.

On the other side of the formation, the Ravens run two out patterns underneath from the slot receiver Doss and the tight end Clark that will force the nickel corner and the free safety out of the middle of the field.

Jones will simply use his speed on a deep post pattern, as Flacco has enough confidence that his receiver can outrun a cornerback to the football thrown down the middle.

The play could've been game-altering during their first meeting before Gay was able to respond to knock away the ball from Jones in the end zone.

Against the Jets last week, Jones caught a 66-yard touchdown — the only touchdown of the game — on a deep post route from the other side of the formation.




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