We’ve officially made it to the very first regular-season Week 18 in the NFL. After coming off a historic and emotional Monday night victory against the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Baltimore to take on the Baltimore Ravens. A win is needed by both teams this week in order to give them playoff hopes for next week. There is a chance this is Ben Roethlisberger’s final game ever, so how fitting is it that it is Ravens week. Being such staple sin the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, Roethlisberger will be sent off by ex-Raven Terrell Suggs and the jeering Baltimore crowd.
Let’s take a look at some things we can look forward to on Sunday.
MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE
Offense: With the forecast calling for a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, this game is going to be won in the trenches. After the departure of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to the University of Oregon, Chris Morgan stepped in last week to take over the offensive line coaching duties; and he did not disappoint. The Steelers’ offensive line has been a patch-work line all season, but they have shown good cohesion the last couple of games. So, the biggest matchup I’m watching is the likes of Trai Turner, B.J. Finney, John Leglue, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kendrick Green, and Joe Haeg versus the Baltimore defensive front in Justin Madubuike, Calais Campbell, Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston, and Patrick Queen. If the Steelers want to move the ball on offense, it starts with the offensive line. Of course, the second leg of that is the opportunities they open for Najee Harris. Harris “only” tallied 71 yards on 21 carries when they last met in Week 13, but the weather is going to force the Steelers to take the pressure off Roethlisberger and let Harris lead the way. But that all starts up front with the offensive line.
Defense: The Ravens will be without quarterback Lamar Jackson this week, so Tyler Huntley will get the start. Although the Steelers haven’t seen much of Huntley, and vice versa, his play-style if very similar to that of Jackson; run first. Seeing as though the weather is going to force this type of game plan, the Steelers front seven need to contain Huntley in the pocket. The Ravens are weakened at the guard position, as starting left guards Ben Powers (foot) and Ben Cleveland (head) are both listed as questionable for this week. This will bode well for the Steelers’ interior defensive tackles, but they’ll need to set the edge with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith to secure the perimeter. I also anticipate a lot of blitz packages to be called to keep Huntely guessing and I think Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to be lined up in the box fairly often this week. For the Steelers’ defense, the formula is simple: force Huntely to throw the ball. With this type of matchup and weather combination, it will take a defensive play to win the game, and that is where the Steelers have the advantage this week.
This is such a tough game to predict. Both teams are beat-up and are fighting for their playoff lives. The Ravens don’t want to lose to Roethlisberger one last time, just as much as Roethlisberger doesn’t want to lose to the Ravens one last time. But I think the Steelers’ defense will make the big play late in securing the victory. Prediction, 18-16, Steelers.
The 2021 Steelers’ season has been historic and memorable for Steeler Nation. Last week, we not only saw an incredible 18-year Roethlisberger-tenure come to an end in Pittsburgh, but we also saw Harris set the Steelers’ all-time rookie rush record, clearing Franco Harris’ 1,055 rushing yards in 1972. But as we turn the corner into Week 18, it is Watt who is at the cusp of another milestone. Watt currently sits at 21.5 sacks on the year, which is the most in Steelers’ history. Michael Strahan holds the (official) record for a season with 22.5 sacks, set back in 2001. Therefore, Watt only needs 1.5 sacks to move to the sole record holder for the most sacks in a single season.
One final note, as it is that time of year for us, is the Steelers’ playoff clinching scenario is as follows:
Steelers Win + Indianapolis Colts Loss (at Jacksonville Jaguars) + Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders not ending in a tie.
What are you watching for on Sunday? What do you think the final outcome will be? Let us know in the comments below!