Steelers ready for cut blocks from Ravens
Casey Hampton was shocked by the first play of the game when the Steelers played at Baltimore in Week 1.
No, not that Ray Rice broke off the longest run against the Steelers' defense in more than two years, but that he found himself lying on his back mere seconds after he engaged with center Matt Birk.
Hampton was cut to the ground by backside guard Marshal Yanda, leaving a gaping hole for Rice to tear off a tone-setting, 36-yard run.
Hampton had his legs cut out from under him by Yanda nine more times during the Ravens' 35-7 win. Those blocks helped Baltimore rush for a season-high 170 yards, and Rice's 107-yard day was the first time the Steelers had given up 100 or more yards on the ground in more than 50 games.
"We didn't expect them to do it, that's for sure" Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "We didn't see it in tape in the past. We weren't prepared for it a little bit."
Hampton admits that he wasn't ready for Baltimore's blocking scheme in Week 1, but he will be expecting it when the two teams meet Sunday at Heinz Field.
"I think I am a little more prepared," Hampton said. "I am a lot more prepared than I was last time. I haven't seen them do that against a whole lot of people besides us."
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau isn't concerned about the success the Ravens had getting Hampton off his feet in Week 1. He said Hampton will adjust.
"I am sure he knows that is what they are going to try to do to him," LeBeau said. "They will do the same thing again. They will cut you on the backside, I promise you that."
Against Arizona last week, the Ravens used Yanda to cut on the backside only a handful of times — or at least not nearly as much as they did against the Steelers.
Baltimore feels the only way you can run on the Steelers is if you eliminate Hampton.
"It is something that you have to see over and over again, and once you get used to it, you can deal with it," Steelers backup nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "We faced that the entire next month with that cut-blocking stuff after that game."
The Ravens success — 96 yards on 10 cut-block plays — led to other teams trying it on the Steelers. But the defensive line, Hampton in particular, quickly adjusted. It hasn't been an issue since.
"The first game was a teaching tool," Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood said. "We took a lot from it and moved on and worked on it. If you know it is coming, you know how to play for it."
Beating the cut block is relatively easy, Hoke said. You just have to stay on your feet by all means necessary.
"You have to see that backside guy and pick your feet up a little bit and stay on your feet," Hoke said. "The key to shutting down the run against a zone-blocking scheme like that is that you have to stay on your feet."
Some Steelers feel the block is dangerous and should be illegal because it targets the knees. But a cut block isn't illegal; a chop block is.
"It worked last time, so I don't see why they would do something different than they did last time," Hampton said.