Saturday, November 05, 2011

Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta Are Trouble

The Steelers had no answer for Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson in the first game.

With the Steelers' dismantling of the New England Patriots still fresh in mind, it's tempting to point to one similarity between the Patriots and Ravens -- their use of dual tight ends, and how they like to go downfield with them.

New England's formidable duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez hurt the Steelers when the Patriots beat Pittsburgh in 2010. Last week, for the most part, the Steelers contained those guys.

Ed Dickson gets past Troy Polamalu.
The Ravens' Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta hurt the Steelers in the season opener in Baltimore this year. Will the Steelers stop them Sunday night?

So much else went wrong for the Steelers in that 38-7 fiasco -- Haloti Ngata forcing two fumbles; Ed Reed intercepting two passes; seven turnovers; Ray Rice and Ricky Williams running wild, etc -- it's almost easy, nearly two months later, to forget how the Steelers had no answer for Dickson and Pitta. It's as if the Steelers were unprepared for them.

After that game, Steelers' linebacker Lawrence Timmons said he was "surprised" at the athleticism of Dickson, who caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Pitta had just two catches, but they went for 16 and 29 yards for an average of 22.5 yards per catch, which is Mike Wallace-like.

You think the Ravens don't rely on their tight ends? Just last Sunday, Dickson and Pitta each caught six passes in Baltimore's comeback 30-27 victory over Arizona.

Whatever the Steelers did to contain the Patriots' tight ends, let's hope they do it against Baltimore. In some ways, Baltimore's offense is similar to New England's, except for that Tom Brady guy, of course. Still, both quarterbacks are fairly stationary. Both like to throw deep -- and, if anything, Joe Flacco throws as pretty a deep pass as an quarterback in the NFL, better than even Brady. Neither the Patriots nor Ravens have a proven deep threat that really scares opponents, although Ravens' rookie receiver Torrey Smith certainly is fast, can get deep and has shown flashes this year. New England doesn't have anybody like that. Ray Rice probably is a better running back than anybody on New England's roster.

Dennis Pitta catches everything.
It's the dual tight ends, and how New England and Baltimore use them, that are similar. Like Gronkowski and Hernandez, Dickson and Pitta are second-year players. The Ravens drafted Dickson (6'5", 250) in the third round out of Oregon; Pitta (6'4", 245) went in the fourth round out of BYU, where he was a a consensus All-American, having caught 145 passes for 1,912 yards his final two seasons in college. Draftniks compared him to Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts.

Both Dickson and Pitta can get deep, and both have great hands.They're trouble.

The Steelers didn't have an answer for Dickson and Pitta first time around. They'd better be ready for them Sunday night.

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