Steelers are aiming for the perfect balance
Steelers' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians once said that he would never ram his head into a brick wall when it comes to calling run plays just for the sake of calling run plays.
Arians was obviously not referring to when the Steelers play Baltimore because running your head into a brick wall works quite well against them.
The Steelers have called more run plays against the Ravens than any other team over the past three years despite having limited success other than in the win column.
The Steelers have won six of their past eight meetings against Baltimore by averaging only 2.4 yards per carry.
"It is hard to run on Baltimore's defense," receiver Hines Ward said. "It has always been like that over the years. But we also aren't going to shy away from it, either."
For the Steelers, it's the commitment to the run against the Ravens that's made them so successful.
The Steelers averaged 28 carries per game against the Ravens over the past three years but have never managed to rush for more than 100 yards and only surpassed 75 once, all the while winning six of the eight meetings.
In their past 16 meetings, the Steelers averaged only 81.9 rush yards per game against Baltimore but have a won half of those games.
"It goes to show that it doesn't necessarily matter how well you run the ball (but that) you do run the ball," Ward said.
The Steelers plan to stick to their formula and run the ball plenty Sunday when they travel to Baltimore, but even they don't expect to put up gaudy numbers on the Ravens.
"Automatically, you can't think you are going to run the ball down their throats," running back Isaac Redman said. "You can't get frustrated, especially when you are playing the Ravens. You have to stick to your game plan."
The Steelers game plan has been patience when it comes to the Ravens. They haven't had less than 23 rushing attempts against the Ravens in their last eight meetings and called 31 run plays in last year's playoff win.
"You have to keep them honest," Ward said. "You can't be one-dimensional. It is tough to be patient and run the ball on them because they know our personnel so well."
Ben Roethlisberger will be the first one to tell you that he wants to throw the ball as much as possible and has lobbied to do so, but even he knows what formula works against Baltimore.
"We have got to establish the run early," Roethlisberger said. "We will show it and we have to be successful with it. When we do, it is always a good thing for us."
At least a threat of a run game will likely slow down Baltimore's pass rush led by linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has 10.5 career sacks against the Steelers, and defensive linemen Haloti Ngata, who always tends to give the Steelers fits.
"Running is a big part of the game no matter what game it is especially a knock-them-out, drag-them-out type of game like this," Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall has had some success in his career against the Ravens but both his top rushing numbers came in losses. He rushed for 95 yards in a 20-17 loss in 2009 and 79 yards in last year's 17-14 loss.
"We are always going to run the ball, because if you want to be known as physical team, you have to run the ball," Ward said.
You just don't have to be good at it to beat the Ravens.