Preview: Huntley Leads Ravens into Pittsburgh to Face Bitter Rival
The Baltimore Ravens travel to Pittsburgh for their week 14 matchup against the Steelers. This is the first matchup between the two teams that currently appear to be going in opposite directions. The Ravens are 8-4 still in first place in the AFC North, but have struggled the last four weeks. While the Steelers are 5-7 and after a slow start have won three of their last four games, including a 19-16 win last week against the Atlanta Falcons. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will square off for the 25th time, most meetings all-time between two head coaches.
The Ravens head into this rivalry likely without quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson was injured at the end of the first quarter last week against the Broncos and is expected to miss 1-3 weeks with what the team is a calling a knee sprain. Jackson did not practice all week and is listed as doubtful. Tyler Huntley is expected to be under center for the Ravens on Sunday making his fifth career start. Huntley’s last start came against the Steelers in the last week of the year. Huntley was 16-for-31, 141 yards passing, while throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. Huntley also added 72 yards on the ground in the Ravens 16-13 loss to the Steelers. Rookie Anthony Brown was promoted from the practice squad and is expected to be the backup to Huntley.
While the Ravens will be without their star quarterback, they will key some key guys back this Sunday. Running back JK Dobbins and safety Marcus Williams were both activated off IR and are expected to play. Running back Mike Davis was waived while cornerback Daryl Worley was placed on the season ending IR to make room for Dobbins and Williams on the active roster. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is also expected to start after missing the last two weeks with an ankle injury.
Offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (toe), outside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (quad), linebacker Patrick Queen (thigh), and linebacker Kristian Welch (concussion) all practiced in full on Friday and are listed as questionable. Guard Kevin Zeitler (knee) was limited on Friday and is listed as questionable, but is expected to start.
Steelers linebacker Malik Reed (back) is questionable. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip) and outside linebacker T.J. Watt (ribs) were both limited in practice on Friday and are also listed as questionable for Sunday.
Ravens Special Teams
The Ravens special teams units have been some of the best in the NFL year in and year out. 2022 has been no different with kicker Justin Tucker having another career year, rookie punter Jordan Stout continuing to get better every week, and returner Devin Duvernay who continues to be one of the most reliable return men in the NFL. The Ravens rank in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return average. Stout averages 47 yards per punt and has downed opponents inside their own 20 yard line 20 times this year. Stout’s ability to shift the field has been huge for the Ravens especially as the offense has struggled. Forcing other teams to go the length of the field has allowed the Ravens defense to be much more aggressive and Stout has been a huge part in this teams success. Justin Tucker has continued to be the best kicker in football, as he is just two points away from becoming the Ravens all-time leading scorer. Tucker has made 89.3% of his field goals including a season long 58 yard field goal in week five. Tucker has been huge the last three weeks as the offense has faltered. Tucker has made seven of his last eight field goals and has been a major reason the Ravens have won two of their last three games.
With the Ravens offense not expected to return to its early season form under backup Tyler Huntley. The special teams will need to step up on Sunday. The Ravens will need a boost from its special teams units to put them in good field position. Whether it be a long Duvernay kick or punt return or a Jordan Stout punt that flips field position. The Ravens will call upon their special teams to keep them in it on Sunday. Expect another big day for Justin Tucker as points will be important, as they usually are in this Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett has had a slow start to his career. The University of Pittsburgh product didn’t get his first NFL start until week four. After throwing just two touchdowns in his first five starts to go along with eight interceptions, Pickett was benched in week nine, but returned as the starter in week 10. Since taking back over as the full time starter Pickett has yet to throw another interception while leading the Steelers to three wins in his last four starts.
While Pickett may not have the eye popping stats like other quarterback around the league, Pickett has done just enough to help the Steelers to a two game win streak. The Ravens defense will need to be disciplined, and while Pickett is a rookie has played much better down the stretch showing his progression as a quarterback as the year has gone on. Pickett also has the ability to run if things break down. Pickett has rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 42 rushing attempts.
Sunday will be another classic between these two teams. While the names have changed over the years the games have remained the same, Sunday should be no different. With a rookie quarterback on one side and a backup on the other expect running backs and defense to be the name of the game. The Ravens offense will continue to struggle with little to no explosive plays down the field as Huntley will look to avoid mistakes and manage the game. With Dobbins set to return the Ravens will be able to rotate between Dobbins, Drake, and Edwards keeping all three fresh throughout the duration of the game.
If the Ravens can minimize big plays by the Steelers and control the time of possession as well as the field position, it will be tough for the Steelers to go on long drives against this Ravens defense. As mentioned above the special teams of the Ravens will be important, and it will be. A last second Justin Tucker field goal will be the difference as the Ravens escape Pittsburgh with a close 17-16 win.
Line: Pittsburgh -2.0
All-Time Record: Pittsburgh leads series 32-24
Last Meeting: 1/9/2022 Pittsburgh 16-13 (OT)