The Ravens v. Steelers.
Just mentioning those words is enough to get the heart pumping, the blood flowing through your veins like a freight train. No matter how bad or good either team is in any given season, this matchup morphs into war. This week is just a little different than the others. The players know it too.
On Thursday when asked if there’s more juice in the locker room this week, Brandon Williams engaged in this exchange with a reporter:
“What do you think?” (laughter)
(Reporter: “I think there is.”)
“All right, there you go.”
(Reporter: “How does it show up”)
“It shows up in preparation, and it shows up in what we do out here on the practice field every day, in the meeting rooms, how we talk, how we carry ourselves. It’s just a different swagger this week, a different wave we’re trying to ride.”
The only question left is, “How will it show up on the field this Sunday?”
Lamar Jackson, more than anyone else on the field, will be amped up. He cannot wait to cleanse the bitter taste of Sunday Night, the worst performance of his life. The stat line was disgusting yet not as embarrassing as the overall effort which was an even uglier story than the numbers tell. Early on, he’ll be operating at a frenetic pace, but eventually, to the dismay of the majority at Heinz Field, he’ll settle down.
- After an early pick that leads to the first points of the game, a field goal by Chris Boswell, Lamar will ignite. He’ll finish the game with two scoring tosses and two rushing TD’s. He’ll produce 350+ yards from scrimmage.
- Devonta Freeman will rush for 75+ yards
- Rashod Bateman will eclipse the century mark and score his first NFL touchdown.
- The Ravens will sack Ben Roethlisberger three times. He’ll eventually leave the game after aggravating a shoulder injury. Mason Rudolph will enter the game embraced by the Holiday Season. He can’t resist the gift of giving and hand Chuck Clark (he won’t drop this one) his first INT of the 2021 season.
- The Steelers will manage just 275 yards of offense, 115 of which will come from Chase Claypool and I’ll hate Every-Single-Stinking yard of it. I’ll find comfort knowing that most of it came during mop up duty.
Dating back to 2018, the Ravens have produced the NFL’s best record in the month of December, going (13-2), winning four straight. Make that (14-2) and five.
Ravens 34, Steelers 13
It sure would be nice for THIS to be the week the Ravens repeat the Chargers game, wouldn’t it? Alas, they’ve done nothing lately to earn a prediction of such. Instead, I’m afraid they will find themselves facing an opponent who just got embarrassed and needs to save face, and who would love nothing more than to do just that against their AFC-leading rivals.
The offense will once again sputter early, despite trying to establish the run against the porous Steeler ground defense, and trying to get Lamar Jackson into a rhythm of easy throws. Chase Claypool gets free for this week’s long touchdown allowed by the secondary – it’s on Pittsburgh’s first drive, and here we go again. Game on.
Pittsburgh has too much pride, and Mike Tomlin is too good of a coach, to get smacked by a division rival two weeks in a row. The Bengals may have softened the Steelers up, but the Ravens won’t be able to definitively finish them off.
Instead, it’ll take another spirited fourth-quarter, in which Jackson finally plays like an MVP candidate once again (after another middling three quarters).
Another week, another nail-biter, another “lucky” Ravens win. Ho hum.
Ravens 24 Steelers 23
Well, it’s another week in the 2021 NFL season, so that means nobody on the planet really knows what’s going to happen — particularly in the rough-and-tumble, up-and-down, survival-of-the-fittest AFC North. And, oh yeah… it’s Steelers week.
The Ravens offense has been a display of fits and starts, turnovers, poor blocking and a running game that feels more strained than my jeans after Thanksgiving dinner. And it’s still probably better than the one being offered up by the Steelers.
It’s Pittsburgh-Baltimore, and that means it will probably be a tight game, decided at the end. Sure, it would seem the Ravens are the better team. But things happen. Would anybody really be decided if Big Ben finds an extra gear for this rivalry game? Or of the Ravens offer another poop-fest on offense?
Here are some predictions:
- Lamar Jackson does clean up the turnovers, but still finds himself running for his life much of the game, and the Ravens have less than 7 points at halftime.
- The run defense continues playing well, giving up less than 80 yards on the day.
- Chase Claypool doesn’t get his music at practice, but he does grab a deep score in this one
Steelers 16 Ravens 13
This has the feel of a game that the Ravens should win big. The Steelers are coming off an awful performance vs the Bengals. They have looked bad for much of the season and, as of right now, they will be without their best player, T.J. Watt, for this game.
They aren’t playing physical football and teams are running on their defense fairly easily.
Of course, the problem is that this is Pitt vs Baltimore and the Ravens have their own set of issues. Lamar Jackson is playing some of the worst football of his career and they have a lot of injuries.
This is a game where I want to see the Ravens do better on early downs. This is a game I want to see them exploit matchups on the outside. Most of all, this is a game where I want to see Lamar look like the QB he was earlier in the season and not the “playing like a rookie” QB he has the last four weeks.
I look for the Ravens to win this game but I don’t think it will be as handily as it should. Big Ben is getting the ball out quick, so I’m not sure we see much in the way of sacks. It will be a lot of quick passing and getting the ball in the hands of Najee Harris.
I’m going to predict Lamar plays better but still struggles more than he should.
Ravens 24 Steelers 16
In honor of Steelers week I present to you the largest margin of victory for Bmore in this rivalry's history. A dominating 35-7 victory that would be QB Joe Flacco's first career win over Ben Roethlisberger, and established a team record 7 turnovers in 1 game.
— 8-3 (@TheDailyRaven) December 3, 2021
It’s Steelers week. Longtime Ravens fans have a whole archive of memories accessed with those words alone, a mixed bag of bitter losses and sweet, brag-worthy victories. They’re brutal, they’re always slugfests, and if there’s ANY game you can expect to see the Ravens fired up to bring their best, it’s this one. Expect the Steelers to match the physicality, but not to keep pace.
— Pittsburgh looked nothing short of pathetic last week against Cincinnati. The Bengals may be a markedly better team than in years past, but I think that last week’s butt-kicking was equal parts Cincy being good and Pittsburgh just having that many holes in their game. That’s why I offer this prediction OFF THE TOP ROPE: By the fourth quarter, the Ravens enjoy a two-possession lead. At least.
I know what you’re thinking: every precedent this season would say Baltimore would struggle to do that, and historically, these rivalry games stay tight down to the wire. But Pittsburgh’s last three games have featured about two good quarters of football, if that. Baltimore may have sloppy stretches, but the only time the Ravens have looked anywhere near THAT flat was the second half against the Bengals, and the Miami game. Pittsburgh comes into this matchup off of a rough stretch, and I think Baltimore punches them in the mouth.
— Najee Harris has totaled 62 rushing yards over his last two games. After watching how effectively Baltimore contained Cleveland’s backfield, I don’t see that number getting much better for Harris. The Ravens hold him to under 40 yards on the ground.
— Baltimore’s D-line looked great last week, and the pressures and intensity carry over into this one. Tyus Bowser posts another great game, registering a sack and a forced fumble. Roethlisberger commits two turnovers on the day, one fumble and one pick.
— Joe Burrow may not have posted tons of yardage last week, but his efficiency was fantastic, going 20 for 24 through the air. Meanwhile, Joe Mixon ran all over the Steeler defense for 165 yards and two scores. Hmm… efficient short yardage passing and a relentless rushing attack… sound like any teams we know? Lamar Jackson puts Pittsburgh’s defense on roller skates, rushing for over 80 yards while also completing 70% of his passes. For good measure, Hollywood catches a deep shot for a house call.
Ravens 35 Steelers 17
Sort of like last week, I have no idea what to expect out of this game. If you say you do, I think you’re lying to yourself. The Ravens beat the Browns in an extremely sloppy game and the Steelers were railroaded by the Bengals. So of course both teams will play their best games of the season Sunday afternoon, right?
I’m no Nostradamus (as my record indicates), but I find it highly unlikely that this game will be one for ESPN Classic.
All that said, this is a very important game for both teams. With a win, the Ravens can open up a three-game lead over the Steelers. With a loss, the Steelers can creep back into contention in an extremely close AFC North.
So how do you pick this game? I’m going to go with the team who I’m most confident can have an above average week and that’s the Ravens. The Ravens’ defense has been trending up and if they can limit what is not an intimidating offense in Pittsburgh, the Ravens should pull this one out. It’ll be ugly (again), but we expect nothing less at this point.
Ravens 20 Steelers 13
This is probably the perfect time for the Ravens to be facing the Steelers. Pittsburgh appears to be falling apart at the seams.They are even bickering about playing music at practice. However we all know these games are always tough.
— Ben Roethlisberger will be sacked 4 times.
— Tyus Bowser will have a sack, an interception and fumble recovery.
— Odafe Oweh will lead the team with two sacks and a forced fumble recovered by Bowser.
— Najee Harris will have less than 45 yards, reminding the Steelers that they should have invested in the offensive line before a first-round running back.
— Lamar Jackson will play more conservatively and take care of the football and throw no interceptions. He’ll throw for 150 yards passing and run for 100 yards.
– Ty’son Williams comes out of the doghouse and runs for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Ravens 24 Steelers 13
Time for a butt-kicking.
Ravens-Steelers is always an event. But I think Ben’s age will continue to be a thorn in Pittsburgh’s side.
The Steelers defense is uncharacteristically bad this year. The O-Line continues to be not good.
Oweh will continue to rack up numbers, getting to Ben twice. Houston will get a sack as well.
Lamar, who historically not played well against the Steelers, will have a bounce back game with three total TDs.
Duvernay out of the backfield? Maybe?
I think the Ravens get this one somewhat handily.
Ravens 30 Steelers 13
Shout-out to my buddy Brett for helping me come up with these!
• Calais Campbell comes back with a vengeance, frequently stuffing the run and getting his 93rd official sack.
• The Steelers will muff a punt, but recover it as the Ravens again fail to scoop-and-score instead of just diving on it.
• Cornerback injuries plague the Ravens all game, allowing Roethlisberger to turn in a vintage performance against his biggest career rival, to the tune of three touchdowns.
• The defense has another solid game against the run, allowing fewer than 60 yards to Najee Harris and keeps the Steelers as a team to zero rushing touchdowns.
• Lamar Jackson has a bounce-back game with just one touchdown but zero turnovers. He’ll look good, but not great as he aims to recover his pre-illness form.
• The Ravens score 3 on the ground, led by a two-touchdown day from Devonta Freeman.
• With some more clutch kicking from Justin Tucker, this one stays a competitive game for all four quarters but the Ravens control it from start to finish.
Ravens 37 Steelers 24
It’s December in the AFC North, and we know anything can happen this time of year, especially when these two teams are involved. The Steelers and Ravens will both be looking to put less than ideal weeks (putting it lightly) behind them on the offensive side of the ball, and both have the playmakers to do it. This game should come down to which defense shows up when the rubber meets the road in the 4th quarter. The Ravens defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points in almost a month (seven of Miami’s points were on the scoop and score), while the Steelers have given up 41 points two weeks in a row.
Ravens 23 Steelers 17