By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have a battle on their hands and it’s in familiar territory. It’s an unfriendly bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens have at least one trip into their top rival’s den every season and they know exactly what to expect.
That’s the first thing you have to consider with this matchup. Games in Pittsburgh are never easy. The crowd is going to be relentlessly loud and present. The officials tend to give the Steelers some home cooking, whether they’re aware of it or not (see Bears vs. Steelers).
If you had to rank the toughest places to play in football, Pittsburgh may be at the top of the list. The Ravens have to pack their toughness and their mental resolve more than anything. Pittsburgh is a place where momentum is as important as oxygen. It seems to weigh heavily in that stadium.
Baltimore Ravens must buck turnover trend in these games:
The second concern for the Ravens has to be protecting the football. Lamar Jackson has a short history of turning the ball over to the Steelers. Jackson had two picks and two fumbles the last time he went against the Steelers. The Ravens lost 28-24 in a game the purple and black were mostly forcing the issue.
In 2019, Jackson had three interceptions against the Steelers in Baltimore’s 26-23 overtime win. His performance wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but in two games against the Steelers, Jackson has an uncomfortable amount of turnovers. It’s an especially present thought going into this game as Jackson is trying to rebound from a four-interception game against the Cleveland Browns.
Jackson has 12 interceptions in eight games. As great as he has been, Jackson’s also at times too careless with the football. Should the Ravens trust Jackson? Absolutely. He’s their field general and he’s proven himself beyond measure. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a show-me game for the Heisman-winning quarterback. He has to show that he can control the game in Pittsburgh. Being concerned about Jackson’s turnovers is fair.
The Ravens have a lot to worry about offensively. Can the Ravens withstand the Pittsburgh pass rush? Whether or not T.J. Watt plays the Steelers have Alex Highsmith and a strong defensive front for the offensive line to deal with. It’s possible that neither Watt nor Cam Heyward will play in this game. That would be a huge boon for the Ravens’ in the trenches, it doesn’t mean things will be a cakewalk.
Concerns for the defense start with the injury report:
The Ravens’ injuries are racking up and it could cost them defensively. Chase Claypool and Pat Friermuth give Pittsburgh some big-play potential in the passing game. The injury report has Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and, Chris Westry as questionable. Should most of them be able to go? Sure, but having almost all of your cornerbacks on the injury report is a bit unsettling if you’re Don Martindale getting ready for this one.
The Ravens have had plenty of problems with tight ends this season. David Njoku was even able to score without actually catching the football so Friermuth is on notice, I guess. All jokes aside, the Steelers have a rookie tight end that may present Baltimore a bit of a challenge. He’s a 6-5 target with a very thick frame and obvious chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. If the Steelers try to beat the Ravens with quick completions in the passing game, the Penn State tight end could be their pipeline for that.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Big Ben round 1,000
The Ravens will want to make the Steelers one-dimensional. Taking Najee Harris will take the same kind of commitment to run defense that neutralizing Nick Chubb took last Sunday. Harris is always capable of the big play, even if the Pittsburgh offensive line isn’t great and his average on the year is 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Ravens can’t let him get loose in the open field.
If the Ravens make the Steelers one-dimensional it all comes down to beating the man they call Big Ben. Roethlisberger hasn’t looked close to his prime, but he’s shown flashes of the brilliance that will make him a future Hall of Fame passer. If Roethlisberger is hot and his receivers are on point against a banged-up Ravens secondary, it will change the dynamic of this game.
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Do I think the Ravens should win this game? Yes. I think they’re the better overall team. Don’t think it’s going to be easy though. This is a coin flip of a game. Whenever the Steelers and Ravens meet it could go either way and it’s going to be a serious fight.