Mon, 25 Jan 2021

Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Steelers

Baltimore Ravens
01 Dec 2020, 22:25 GMT+10

Clifton Brown

Basics

Kickoff: Wednesday, 3:40 p.m., Heinz Field

TV: WBAL, Ch. 11 (Baltimore), WRC, Ch. 4 (Washington, D.C.), NBC crew (Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM/101.5 FM) and 98 Rock (97.9 FM), Ravens crew (Gerry Sandusky, Femi Ayanbadejo); WDCN La Nueva 87.7 on the Ravens app: (David Andrade, Gustavo Salazar, Ximena Lugo Latorre)

Stakes

Having lost two straight and three of their last four, the Ravens (6-4) are fighting for a playoff spot and want to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2018. Losing would eliminate Baltimore from repeating as AFC North champs. The Steelers want to remain the NFL's lone undefeated team, with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) in close pursuit for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

History

The Steelers lead the all-time series, 29-24, including a 3-1 edge in the playoffs. The last meeting was Nov. 1 when Pittsburgh prevailed, 28-24, at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore led, 17-7, at halftime, but Ben Roethlisberger threw two second-half touchdown passes, including an 8-yarder to rookie Chase Claypool that gave Pittsburgh its final lead. Baltimore drove to Pittsburgh's 23-yard line on the game's final drive, but a pass from Lamar Jackson intended for Willie Snead IV was broken up by Minkah Fitzpatrick in the end zone on the final play. Jackson threw a pick-six and had four turnovers in the game, two interceptions and two fumbles.

Storylines to Watch

How will both teams cope with COVID-19's impact on this game?

The Ravens will enter a critical matchup without a host of players who have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Their practice schedule was interrupted throughout the week and the game was postponed twice. The Steelers' Reserve/COVID-19 list isn't nearly as long, but it hasn't been a normal game week for them either. It will be a test for both teams on handling adversity, especially the Ravens, who have not had a full practice in more than a week and have more players out of action.

Can the Ravens' offense establish a rhythm?

Robert Griffin III is expected to make his first start at quarterback this season, and it comes against a Steelers defense that allows the fewest points in the league (17.4 per game). This would be a challenge for the Ravens under any circumstances, but they'll be starting their sixth different offensive line combination against a tenacious Steelers defense that thrives on being disruptive.

Can Baltimore avoid turnovers?

The Ravens' four turnovers against Pittsburgh last month cost them a game they could have won. It's hard to imagine the Ravens pulling off an upset in Pittsburgh if they lose the turnover battle. Taking care of the football will be even more important than usual for Baltimore.

Key Matchups

Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers defensive front

Injuries have forced Baltimore to shuffle its offensive line all season and the Steelers bring tremendous pressure, led by outside linebacker T.J. Watt, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. If they are to move the ball effectively, the Ravens must prevent Pittsburgh's front seven from dominating.

Robert Griffin III vs. Pittsburgh's secondary

Griffin will be attacking a Pittsburgh defense that is leading the league in turnovers. Without a lot of recent game action under his belt, Griffin must be accurate throwing into tight windows, yet careful enough to avoid mistakes. That's a tough task going against a secondary led by Fitzpatrick, an All-Pro safety who is one of the game's top takeaway artists.

Ravens cornerbacks vs. Steelers wide receivers

This matchup is strength against strength. Pittsburgh has one of the NFL's most talented wide receiver groups led by Claypool, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who all have between 559 and 535 yards receiving. That reflects how evenly Roethlisberger distributes the ball, and how willing he is to throw to any receiver at any time. The Ravens will hope Jimmy Smith (ankle) is healthy enough to play. Smith is having one of his best seasons and can help Pro Bowl corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters matchup against Pittsburgh's talented wideouts.

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