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Marshal Yanda is fully aware of the monster that will line up opposite him Sunday.
He has dealt with Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley since his college days, when Yanda was a stout farm boy at Iowa and Woodley was a hot-shot pass-rusher at Michigan.
Yanda knew Woodley was good then and not much has changed, which could mean a long, difficult day for the Ravens’ right tackle Sunday in Pittsburgh.
If Baltimore’s offense is going to move the ball on Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense, Yanda will have to at least slow Woodley.
“He’s one of the best, that’s for sure,” Yanda said. “We’re going to have to play our best football.”
The Steelers notched nine sacks in two games against the Ravens last year. Woodley had three of them, including two in their meeting in Pittsburgh.
Oniel Cousins started that game as Jared Gaither sat out with an injury and Michael Oher slid to the left side. With help from tight end Todd Heap, Cousins held his own for much of the game. But when Baltimore needed a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter, Woodley beat Cousins for back-to-back sacks. The second of which caused a game-ending fumble.
Yanda was at right guard for that game. He hasn’t faced Woodley at tackle since Yanda’s rookie year, but has taken plenty of notes. Woodley inflicts much of his damage off a spin move and can also bull-rush effectively.
“If you get high, he’s going to get underneath you and jack you into the quarterback,” Yanda said. “You’ve got to identify his rush and play your butt off.”
Woodley isn’t the Ravens’ only problem.
Pittsburgh presents double trouble with fellow outside linebacker James Harrison coming off the left side. Harrison, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Woodley have four Pro Bowls between them over the past three years and have notched 51 combined sacks during the past two seasons.
“At times we’ve done well against one guy, but then the other guy has hurt us,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s pretty hard to provide help on both sides of your pass protection and get anybody out [in pass routes]. That’s the biggest thing.”
Despite its shuffling act at right tackle, Baltimore has allowed just three sacks this year. That’s tied for fourth-best in the NFL. The Ravens didn’t surrender a sack to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.
But the Steelers will present perhaps the greatest pass-rush challenge yet.
“You come up with what you think is going to be a sound plan,” Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. “Sometimes you double them, sometimes you single them, sometimes you triple them. And then you rely on the trust between the quarterback and the receivers to get the ball out quickly.”