There was a lot for John Harbaugh to be pleased with from a defensive standpoint after Sunday's win over the Buccaneers.
The Ravens were able to get fairly consistent pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman and made him uncomfortable in the pocket; they kept dangerous rookie wide receiver Mike Williams to just two catches for 20 yards; and if you take away Tampa Bay's final drive in which they used their hurry-up offense to march 77 yards for a touchdown, Baltimore only allowed three points the rest of the game and didn't let the Bucs get into any type of offensive rhythm throughout.
Beyond that, however, the biggest positive that the Ravens' defense can take out of the Tampa Bay win is the way they were able to get back to their roots and stop the run.
Facing a talented one-two punch in Bucs running backs LeGarrette Blount and Carnell Williams, the Ravens did a good job gang-tackling and didn't let Blount's brute force or Williams' shiftiness burn them.
It wasn't a completely dominating effort from the Baltimore run defense in that the Bucs averaged 4.4 yards per carry and rushed for 101 yards overall, but 27 of those yards came from Freeman. After allowing 120 yards on the ground to Carolina's Mike Goodson a week prior, the Ravens held Blount to just 55 yards on the day and limited his impact on the game.
That's something that Harbaugh would like to see carry over to the rest of the season as the Ravens begin their stretch run.
"Yeah, it needs to," Harbaugh said. "I think that's something that we pride ourselves on. I've never been overly concerned about our run defense as much as some other people have. You know, you watch the tape, I feel good about our run defense. I have all year. There's a couple games where we gave up some more yards than we wanted to, but I don't think it's been an issue with the run defense, per se."
Once an elite team when it comes to run defense, the Ravens have slipped a bit this year, as they're allowing nearly 102 rushing yards per game this season. That's 11th-best in the league; this out of a defense which hasn't been outside the top-5 in run D since 2005.
As we get into the final five weeks of the regular season, it will become even more important for the Ravens to stop the run. The weather will start to deteriorate, making throwing deep down field more difficult, and controlling the clock will become more important.
The Ravens know that the Steelers would love to be able to pound the ball down their throats with a smash-mouth rushing attack on Sunday night. Coming off a game where they kept the bruising Blount in check, Baltimore hopes to do the same against Pittsburgh's running game, led by third-year back Rashard Mendenhall.
"If we're going to win the games and become the team that we want to become, we have to make teams one-dimensional," Harbaugh said. "We have to stuff the run. It's got to start with Pittsburgh. They want to run the ball. It's going to be very important."