Ravens at Steelers.
It was once “can’t miss television”. Today it’s closer to a homogenous mess of nothingness. The rivalry used to be a bitter one with marquee veteran players, characterized by extreme physicality. Today, those players are largely gone and the league has done its best to suck the life out of the rivalry’s physical DNA.
Sunday’s matchup pits (see what I did there) the (2-2) Ravens against the (1-3) Steelers. The Steelers are coming off a dominant performance over the hapless kittens from southern Ohio while the Ravens are looking to shake off an embarrassing showing at The Bank that cost them first place in the AFC North.
In this all-time series littered with fist fights, the Steelers lead the regular season count, 25-21 (3-1 playoffs). In the past eight matchups (since 2015), each team has won four games. Under head coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore is 12-13 (including playoffs) against the Steelers.
How will this round shake out?
• Mason Rudolph threw for 229 yards against the Bengals on Monday Night. He’ll crush that total by 50 yards, adding 2 scores. That said, Earl Thomas silences all doubters with an impressive game-altering pick in the fourth quarter. Rudolph’s father is ashamed and rubs some black clay on his nose.
• Lamar Jackson’s lowest passing yardage output this season is 247. He’ll come in under that number v. the Steelers. But he will rip off a long TD run of 30+ yards.
• That said, the rushing star of the day will be Mark Ingram. He’ll eclipse the 100-yard benchmark by 30+ yards and add two scores.
• Marquise Brown reminds the Steelers’ faithful what a Brown (he is Antonio’s cousin, after all) can do. He’ll add a score from 30+ yards out.
• The Ravens rushing defense shows up and they’ll limit the Steelers to under 100 yards on the ground.
It won’t be pretty, (especially the failed 2-point conversion) but in the end, look for the Ravens to reclaim first place in the North.
Ravens 27 Steelers 24
— The Ravens defense struggled against Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield over the last two weeks. They should have an easier time with Mason Rudolph, who took over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Rudolph has thrown for 515 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions, but he hasn’t show he can beat teams deep, which is the Ravens weakness.
— The Ravens are ranked 23rd in the league with eight sacks, and they’ll try to pressure Rudolph into making mistakes. The pass rushers have been on notice with the recent release of Tim Williams.
— Rudolph will take some deep shots with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will likely be facing man-coverage against Marlon Humphrey. The winner of that battle could help decide the game.
— The Steelers defense put on a clinic with eight sacks against the Bengals. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has been under consistent pressure for the past two weeks. The o-line needs to do better protecting him or this game will swing in favor of the Steelers.
— The Ravens have a sense of urgency after two straight losses. The team has been focused on correcting its problems this week.
Ravens 24 Steelers 17
In my season predictions, I wrote that I expected the Ravens defense to struggle early in the season. I didn’t expect the defense to be quite this bad but the absence of Jimmy Smith once again isn’t helping matters. Also last week the absence of Brandon Williams hurt quite a bit. There seems to be at least a handful of problems on defense and I don’t think it’s going to be fixed in a matter of one week. While the Ravens currently have the number 1 ranked overall offense, it has also slowed down significantly in the last 2 weeks. I’m not worried about the offense but I’m not sure if they will be able to carry the defense until it is fixed.
The Ravens will look better but ultimately come up short at Heinz Field.
Steelers 24 Ravens 22
The Ravens will bounce back from an embarrassing defensive effort with a focus on getting back to basics. It won’t always be sexy, and they’ll blow a coverage that leads to a long TD catch from James Washington. The pass rush will lack bite at times. The weaknesses will peek through but it’ll be a step in the right direction.
On offense they’ll will hit on opportunities to sustain drives in an improvement from last week. Lamar and Hollywood will get back in sync and lead to 100+ receiving yards and a TD for the rookie. Gus Edwards will punch in two short TD’s of his own and the Ravens end their two-game slide convincingly on the road.
Ravens 30 Steelers 17
Watching the Steelers on Monday night, it was clear that Ben or no Ben, that OL is still near the top of the league when it comes to protecting their QB. Sure, Cincy is awful, but they still have Geno Atkins rushing the passer. Rudolph had alllll day to throw, and even though his eyes never stray more than 10 yards down the field, with that kind of time, even those short passes can result in big gains, as the secondary is nowhere to be found after five or six seconds.
The Ravens need to force Pittsburgh to play catch up in this game. I think a big strike to Hollywood and a clock-eating TD drive ending in a short plunge by Ingram – both in the first quarter – do just that. The Ravens have blown some big leads at Heinz Field over the past few seasons (not last year, thankfully), but Rudolph can’t pull a rabbit out of his but, er…hat, the way Fat Ben did so many times.
Ravens 27 Steelers 17
– The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is going to look very very different on Sunday, and the game will reflect that. Little defense will be played.
– Once again, Ravens fans will be up in arms over each facet of the defense, as James Conner and Jaylen Samuels gash the defense while James Washington and Diontae Johnson support a locked-down JuJu Smith-Schuster well.
– Offensively, Lamar will be sharper and the team will hold onto the football, with Mark Ingram and the Ravens running game being the only thing keeping this from being a super high-scoring game.
– Miles Boykin continues to work his way into the offense more, catching 4 passes for 70 yards, while Hollywood announces his arrival to the series with a 30+ yard TD.
– Ultimately, the home crowd at Heinz will be a difference-maker, as penalties and the Ravens defense’s inability to get off the field will prove deadly.
Steelers 30 Ravens 24
Michael Hickey Jr.
There’s a lot at stake in Sundays game against the Steelers. A win keeps the Ravens right in the mix for 1st place in the AFC North and a loss puts them in 3rd place.
On offense, the Ravens could be without starting center Matt Skura which isn’t great news for an offensive line going against the likes of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt. I think Greg Roman looks to establish the run early to control the tempo of the game. It’s no secret the Ravens defense is struggling so controlling the time of possession by sustaining longer drives allows the defense to stay fresh and focused. The key is the offense needs to score points with this approach for it to be effective. Mark Ingram continues his hot start to the season gashing the Steelers all afternoon. I think Lamar Jackson continues his solid play and Hollywood Brown gets the best of Minkah Fitzpatrick in Round 2.
On defense, Wink Martindale’s game plan will be less aggressive against Mason Rudolph and the Steelers offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster has a toe injury and James Conner has an ankle injury that held them out of practice yesterday. Rudolph isn’t exactly pushing the ball downfield and is relying on yards after the catch on underneath throws. Brandon Williams returns and the Ravens shut down the run game, holding the Steelers under 100 yards. The Ravens defense gets back to the basics by focusing on making the tackle and not giving up the big play. The defense holds the Steelers under 400 yards after surrendering over 500 yards in back to back games. It’s still not the elite defense fans are used to in Baltimore but it’s good enough for the win.
Ravens 17 Steelers 14
There is no way around it any longer; the Ravens defense is not at all what it used to be. Forget the blown coverages for a second, because we will circle back on that one. The inability to set the edge, leaving gaping holes to run through, and nonexistent pass rush are beyond concerning. The edge rushers aren’t great, but they’re not helped by anyone on the interior of the defensive line creating pressure.
Now we circle back to coverage issues. Beyond Marlon Humphrey, it doesn’t seem anyone else in the secondary can cover man-to-man. They aren’t communicating well enough to play zone either. Couple that with the issues above and it’s not surprising the last three games have been a disaster defensively.
I believe the Ravens will look a little better. They cannot possibly look worse this week against Mason Rudolph. I expect the offense to put some points up, but on the road, the Ravens will fall short.
Steelers 27 Ravens 24