It is put up or shut up time for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin stated precisely that in his weekly press convention following final Sunday’s 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. At 5-5-1, the Steelers want a win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday so as to keep alive within the AFC playoff race. The Ravens, who’re 8-3 regardless of a litany of accidents, can transfer additional forward of their quest to seize their third AFC North division crown in 4 years with a win in Pittsburgh.
No matter who wins, NFL historical past will probably be made Sunday at Heinz Area. Sunday’s sport will mark the thirtieth matchup between Tomlin and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, marking solely the third time in NFL historical past that two coaches have confronted one another that many instances. Tomlin has a 15-14 edge within the collection getting into Sunday’s sport. Pittsburgh is driving a two-game successful streak within the collection after having swept Baltimore in 2020. The Ravens swept the season collection in 2019.
We’ll preview the sport together with giving our prediction for Sunday’s final result. This is how one can observe the motion in actual time.
When the Ravens have the ball
Pittsburgh’s protection had success in its earlier two matchups in opposition to Lamar Jackson. Of their win over Jackson in 2020, the Steelers used three exterior linebackers so as to include the previous league MVP. In an extra time loss to Jackson and the Ravens in 2019, the Steelers beefed up their line of defense so as to take away Baltimore’s inside working lanes. Given Pittsburgh’s present lack of depth on the line of defense and at exterior linebacker, the Steelers might elect to include Jackson on Sunday by using extra defensive backs whereas giving free security Minkah Fitzpatrick the flexibility to focus extra on Jackson.
Jackson continues to be a deadly menace on the bottom, as his 707 speeding yards is greater than twice as a lot as Baltimore’s second-leading rusher. The Ravens have gotten strong performances of late from Devonta Freeman, who has averaged 54 yards speeding on 14 carries in Baltimore’s final 4 video games. Jackson’s main targets proceed to be Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Whereas he has gone three video games with out a landing catch, Brown has caught 23 passes over that span and has caught not less than six passes in seven of his 10 video games this season. Andrews has loved a gentle enhance in manufacturing; the veteran tight finish has averaged six receptions for 67 yards whereas scoring two touchdowns over Baltimore’s final three video games.
The Steelers have struggled in opposition to groups which have depth at receiver. With Joe Haden anticipated to cowl Brown, Jackson could be sensible to get fellow wideouts Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay concerned through the early phases of Sunday’s sport. The Steelers can have success if the Ravens rely an excessive amount of on Jackson, Brown and Andrews to make many of the performs. Conversely, a balanced assault would doubtless expose the Steelers’ holes at cornerback, inside linebacker and on the line of defense.
When the Steelers have the ball
Baltimore’s protection, led by linebackers Patrick Queen, Tyus Bowser, rookie Odafe Oweh, veteran Justin Houston, and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, is presently tops within the league in each third-down and red-zone effectivity. Baltimore additionally boasts the NFL’s second-ranked run protection, which is unhealthy information for a Pittsburgh offense that’s presently twenty eighth within the NFL in speeding.
If there’s a weak spot within the Ravens’ protection, it is in its cross protection. The unit is presently useless final within the NFL in passing yards allowed. Ben Roethlisberger must be on his sport whereas exploiting Baltimore’s struggling secondary. That may require Chase Claypool and James Washington — who’ve struggled with their consistency — to step up their numbers are referred to as. Count on Pittsburgh’s passing sport to proceed to be led by Diontae Johnson and rookie tight finish Pat Freiermuth. Johnson is on tempo to be Pittsburgh’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2019. Freiermuth, the second tight finish chosen within the 2021 NFL Draft, leads the Steelers with six landing receptions.
Whereas Pittsburgh will definitely look to assault Baltimore’s cross protection, the Steelers’ offense has been extra profitable this season when the unit has been capable of keep some semblance of steadiness. Meaning a gentle workload for rookie working again Najee Harris, who needs to be contemporary after getting simply eight carries in final week’s loss in Cincinnati.
The Steelers have the receivers to benefit from Baltimore’s cross protection. However they don’t have an offensive line that may be counted on to include the Ravens’ formidable entrance seven. On protection, the Steelers have the scheme to include Jackson, however have they got the gamers? Whereas that query will certainly play a task within the final result, Sunday’s sport will doubtless come all the way down to which workforce can management the ball whereas avoiding making the massive mistake.
Relaxation assured, the Steelers will play with extra ardour after final week’s debacle in Cincinnati. However the Ravens’ superior expertise, led by Jackson, is likely to be an excessive amount of to beat.
Rating: Ravens 21, Steelers 20