The issues in the Ravens secondary continue to be a primary concern heading into Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh against the Steelers. As I write this post, it appears the Ravens will only have three healthy cornerbacks with Jimmy Smith (foot) and Asa Jackson (toe) out. That means we get the pleasure of watching Lardarius Webb team with the dynamic duo of Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks to attempt to defend Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh wideouts Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton.
I only have one word to describe how I feel about this scenario and it’s not really even a word: Ugh! (I could probably add a few expletives to replace that, but I’m trying to keep things a little “family friendly.”)
This could get really ugly, really fast, folks. As I’m sure many of you know, the Steelers are coming off a dynamic offensive performance, dropping 51 points in their win over Indy last weekend. Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and 6 TDs and the trio of Brown, Bryant, and Wheaton combined for 20 catches, 272 receiving yards and five of Roethlisberger’s six scoring tosses.
The loss of Jimmy Smith for the Ravens is close to a nightmare scenario. Smith has established himself as one of the best corners in the NFL and is far and away the best in a weak position group for the team. Not having him on the field against the Steelers and for an extended period moving forward is going to put a major strain on both sides of the football.
The effect of Smith’s loss on defense will surely be impactful and likely immediate. With a secondary that is already being attacked on the regular by opponents, not having Smith will mean the front seven is going to have to ramp up their performance that much more, especially this week in Pittsburgh. The Ravens are going to need to amp up an already aggressive attack and get to Roethlisberger play after play, slowing down the Pittsburgh passing attack and, with any luck, forcing mistakes.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens are going to need to find some consistency and score points aplenty. The loss of Smith will surely allow the Steelers and others to exploit the back end of the defense even more than we have already seen this season, which will likely lead to big plays and points on the board for Baltimore opponents. Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense cannot let slow starts and 3-and-out drives be a regular occurrence.
Every team deals with injuries, but when a position group that is already struggling loses it’s best and only real positive presence, that is when a season can start to go downhill. Without much hope for a turnaround by other players in the secondary and the NFL trade deadline come and gone, how the Ravens deal with Smith’s absence and whether the rest of the secondary can pick up the slack could mean the difference between the playoffs or ending the season in disappointment. While I wouldn’t call Smith’s loss totally insurmountable, aside from Joe Flacco, he might be the one player this team couldn’t afford to lose.