But the Ravens don't believe all of their struggles against the run have to do with missing their $52.5 million man in the middle.
“We are not defending the run as well as we want to, for sure," coach John Harbaugh said. "Interior-wise, we are playing OK, not as well as when Brandon was there. But Michael Pierce is playing really well. I give him a lot of credit, and those young guys are doing pretty well, too, when you watch it. Our problem [Sunday] was more on the edges."
Williams, who re-signed with Baltimore for $52.5 million over five years, is considered one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league.
With Williams, the Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to a total of 32 yards rushing. With Williams out with a foot injury, Baltimore has given up 10 times that amount against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Steelers.
"In a sense, it affects us. I mean, a loss is a loss," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "That’s not an excuse. The next guy has to step up. When he comes back, we’ll be ready for him. But we just can’t make that [as an] excuse. If anything, the guy that’s behind him have got to see what he does on those types of runs, or watch a little more film and see what you need to work on for those types of runs. You’ve got to figure it out as a whole group."
In Sunday's 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens allowed 173 yards rushing, the second-most given up by Baltimore over the past five seasons.
The Steelers didn't do all of their damage up the middle to take advantage of the absence of Williams. Pittsburgh gained 85 yards rushing by attacking the perimeter, where Baltimore's outside linebackers failed to contain running back Le'Veon Bell.
"We had a problem on the edges with some of their formations," Harbaugh said. "They put two and three tight ends out there, and we didn’t respond to some of the gap schemes as well as we can, as well as we need to, and I think that is where they popped those runs, for the most part."