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Dean Pees has Ravens' defense playing at high level

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PITTSBURGH -- Ask one of Dean Pees' players about the blitzes he draws up, and you'll be lied to.

Specifically, ask them about a moment on Saturday when the Steelers were facing a third-and-4 deep in their own territory amid a frantic fourth quarter. Pees had three stand-up rushers on either side of the line and one down tackle over the center who dropped back into coverage.

To Ben Roethlisberger's left, a trio of Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Darian Stewart showed blitz. Mosley went wide drawing a blocking back and a tackle while Suggs hesitated toward the line before dropping back into coverage. The threat was enough to draw another two blockers in his direction. And with the gaping hole, Stewart had a free run at the quarterback.

Roethlisberger was pressured into a panicked throw that was tipped and intercepted by Suggs between his legs.

But that's all we know.

Haloti Ngata said it was an old play, just something Pees has lying around for a situation like this one. Elvis Dumervil, a frequent beneficiary of such calls, said it was a new creation that was drawn up this week specifically for Roethlisberger.

Pernell McPhee won't even tell you what Pees named it.

"I can't give y'all our recipe, man," McPhee said. "You can figure it out, but we'll still come with it."

What we do know is that Pees has once again proven himself as a serially overlooked head coaching candidate. His game plan, which included a second exotic blitz that significantly altered the evening, was grounded in more than a decade of experience watching Ben Roethlisberger.

Pees coached against Roethlisberger in college at Kent State, the last -- and only -- time he was given the chance to run his own team. His game plan limited mobility and piled on the Steelers' hulking quarterback to ensure no plays would be extended. He took the built in advantage of no Le'Veon Bell and ran with it.

A few minutes before Suggs' interception, he unleashed Dumervil on a rush that left a player with the league's third-highest regular-season sack total completely unblocked. A tap in.

"It's huge, man," Dumervil said. "As players, it's hard to get a sack and earn it yourself. So whenever you can get a layup off the scheme, it's just icing on the cake."

Like Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, consideration in Pees is limited given the fact that Baltimore is on a playoff run. As a No. 6 seed there is little time to squeeze in an interview when designing a game plan against a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

But Pees is also 65, three years older than Bruce Arians, a coach who recently changed the league's perception on ages for first-time head coaches. Maybe some believe that is too old to start over. Maybe another Coach of the Year award for Arians would afford Pees a chance to get a serious look; one he deserves.

Another game plan like Saturday, though, and he'll be hard to ignore. Each of the past two seasons, Pees' defense has been one of the league's most efficient, according to an all-encompassing metric by Football Outsiders. Baltimore was No. 8 in total defense this year.

And next week in New England, he'll have another chance to take a bow. He was Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009, an experience we would not write off.

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