Welcome to our first Ravens Week of 2021. Historically speaking, this is typically a monumental game for both the Baltimore Ravens’ and Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff aspirations. But after the Steelers not being able to win a game in almost a month and the Ravens squeezing out wins week after week, it seems as though these teams are trending in opposite directions. Each team is facing their own respective injuries and are entering this game not at full strength. If the Steelers want to have any playoff hopes for this season, it starts with this critical game.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some things we can look forward to on Sunday.
MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE
Offense: The offensive game plan does not favor the Steelers. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is going to have a conflict of interest as to how he wants to run the offense. The Ravens have always had a stout rush defense. This year, they’re second in the league with allowing an average of only 84.2 yards per game to opposing offenses. Simply put, they’re not going to let Najee Harris run all over them and are going to force Ben Roethlisberger to throw in order to move the ball. This would concern me, but the Ravens are ranked dead last in the league in pass defense. Let me repeat that; the Ravens are last in the league in total pass defense. They are only one of two teams who have allowed over 3,000 passing yards so far this season (the other team is the Seattle Seahawks). The Ravens have allowed a total of 3,033 passing yards, averaging over 275 passing yards per game. For the Steelers to effectively move the ball, Roethlisberger is going to have to throw the ball downfield. Adding to the Ravens’ secondary woes, all four cornerbacks are carrying a “questionable” designation into this game. That is not to say all four starters won’t play, but clearly the Steelers aren’t facing the last-place Ravens’ pass defense at one hundred percent. The opportunities will be there there for Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and Chase Claypool. Get ready for a game where Roethlisberger throws at least 50 pass attempts.
Defense: Do I need to explain how critical it is for the Steelers to contain Lamar Jackson? After giving up 159 rushing yards to the Los Angeles Chargers and then 198 yards on the ground to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers’ depleted rush defense needs to control the game. This is definitely going to be a tough task. The Ravens are known for their run-first offense and are ranked second in the league in rush yards (behind the Philadelphia Eagles). The Steelers’ defensive line is thin, with Cam Heyward fighting an illness and the Steelers having to rely on practice squad players to fight in the trenches. Look for the Steelers to load eight guys in the box every play and force Jackson to throw. Of course when that happens, Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick are going to have to shadow Mark Andrews all over the field, and the Steelers’ cornerbacks are going to need to make sure Marquise Brown doesn’t get loose downfield. Between a highly mobile quarterback, a strong tight end, and a fast wide receiver, there are clearly a lot of variables the Ravens’ offense brings against the Steelers and none of which play to the Steelers’ current strengths.
Call me pessimistic, but I don’t see this being a fun game for Steeler Nation. I think there is just too much fire power with the Ravens’ rush attack going against a debilitated Steelers’ defense. To keep it short, my prediction is 38-10, Ravens.
The Steelers currently hold a 30-24 all-time record over the Ravens. Fans from both parties know how deep this rivalry runs and it seems like each game matters when these two teams play each other. With that said however, things are a bit different for Steelers fans in the month of December. Now I know what you’re thinking back to; that horrendous downfall in December last season. But December games for the Steelers versus the Ravens have been favorable. Going back to 2002, the Steelers are 10-5 against the Ravens in December. Now for the cherry on top; the Steelers are 6-1 at home against the Ravens in December in that same stretch. The last time the Ravens beat the Steelers in Heinz Field in December was in 2006 (Roethlisberger left the game early and Charlie Batch had to come in late in the game). Therefore, although this week’s matchup is certainly a difficult one, history has shown the Steelers hold their own in December at home against the team from Baltimore.
What are you watching for on Sunday? What do you think the final outcome will be? Let us know in the comments below!