Preview: Ravens, Steelers Renew AFC North Rivalry
The Baltimore Ravens square off with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday looking to keep a strangle hold on first place in the AFC North. While the Ravens have not played up to expectation over the last several weeks they sit at 8-3 in complete control of the one-seed in the AFC. The Steelers on the other hand have been in a tail spin, failing to capture a win since week nine against the Chicago Bears.
The Ravens and Steelers seasons appear to be going in opposite directions, but records are out the window when these two teams meet. While the names and the faces have changed over the course of this heated rivalry, it is still considered one of the best rivalries in all of football. With each side playing hard smash mouth football Sunday’s matchup should not disappoint
Reports surfaced on Saturday that this season will be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final season as a Steeler. It is unknown if the 39-year old would return next season to play elsewhere but it appears that we are nearing the end of seeing Roethlisberger under center for the Steelers against the Ravens.
Roethlisberger is 15-10 all time against the Ravens and has been a catalyst in some of the biggest moments that have made this rivalry what it is. Roethlisberger has struggled this season and looks like a guy that is nearing the end of his career. His inability to consistently push the ball down field, and the lack of run game behind a young offensive line has halted the Steelers offense. The Steelers have given up 24 sacks through 11 games and the Ravens will look to attack Roethlisberger early in an effort to move him out of the pocket something that once made Roethlisberger a threat around the league, but now with is inability to move is something teams try to force Roethlisberger to do.
Ravens Rushing Attack Vs Steelers Defense
Nothing says AFC North football like running the football, and no team has run the football better since 2018 than the Baltimore Ravens. While the Ravens don’t have their top three starting running backs in Gus Edwards, J.K Dobbins, and Justice Hill. Replacements Devonta Freeman and Latavious Murray have picked up the slack as the Ravens currently sit in second in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
Freeman has taken over as the lead back after Murray went down with an ankle sprain forcing him to miss four weeks. Freeman leads the Ravens running backs in rushing with 324 yards averaging over four yards per carry.
The run heavy offense that the Ravens like to use so much is a bad sign for the Steelers who’s biggest weakness on the defensive side of the football is stopping the run. The Steelers rank 28th in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up an average of 133 rushing yards per game. Freeman and Murray will look to have big days on Sunday as the Steelers will look to keep quarterback Lamar Jackson contained as he has rushed 39 times for 162 yards in four career games against the Steelers.
Players on each side will have no issue getting up for this game, but the Steelers in particular who are in desperation mode as they look to keep pace with the Ravens in the AFC North, will look to press the issue early. While the Steelers have struggled in the down field passing game, the scouting report against the Ravens defense would be to attack them deep, as the Ravens have given up the most big plays in the NFL this season. Steelers receivers Chase Claypool and speedster Diontae Johnson will look to take advantage of a Ravens secondary that has dealt with injury and illness throughout the week.
But the difference maker in this game will be the ability for the Ravens to run the ball and control the clock as they wear down a Steelers defense that gives up an average of 24 points a game. Keeping the offense on the field will be key for the Ravens as they keep their own defense fresh and allow them to come after Roethlisberger on every possession.
While on paper the Ravens outmatch the Steelers, Sunday will be a typical Ravens, Steelers game that will come down to the end. But while the game will be close on the scoreboard, it will never feel like the Ravens are in any danger of losing as they leave Pittsburgh with a 24-20 win to remain in first place across the entire AFC.
Line: Baltimore -4.5
All-Time Record: Pittsburgh leads series 30-24
Last Meeting: 12/2/20 Pittsburgh 19-14