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News & Notes: John Harbaugh Hasn't Made Decisions Yet on Who Plays vs. Steelers

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on from the sideline before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Ravens defeated the 49ers, 33-19.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on from the sideline before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Ravens defeated the 49ers, 33-19.

Having clinched the No. 1 seed and AFC North crown, the Ravens must decide who will play and who to rest Saturday against the Steelers.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the coaching staff was working through its options regarding Lamar Jackson and other starters.

"I have not made a decision on any personnel yet," Harbaugh said. "We've got to kind of work through the injury part of it first, and that will take us probably 24 or 48 hours to get a real handle on that. Then we'll make those decisions. We're not going to keep it a secret. We'll let you know what we're going to do once we start practicing."

Working with a 53-man roster will make it more difficult to sit out key players than it is during the preseason when there is a 90-man roster.

Meanwhile, it's a crucial game for the Steelers (9-7), who need a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Ravens always bring intensity when facing their division rivals and would love to play the role of spoilers, regardless of which players suit up.

"It's not like the preseason when you have a bunch of guys," Harbaugh said. "The team we put out there is going to do everything we can to win the game, play our best football game of the season and win the game against a very tough opponent.

Harbaugh on Injuries Heading Into Playoffs

Having a bye week will be beneficial for some key players recovering from injuries. Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf), cornerback Daryl Worley (stinger) and defensive tackle Michael Pierce (stinger) did not finish Sunday's game. Versatile safety Kyle Hamilton (knee), starting cornerback Brandon Stephens (ankle) and starting right guard Kevin Zeitler (knee/quad) were inactive.

Harbaugh was asked if the Ravens had suffered any recent injuries that would impact someone's availability for the playoffs.

"It's way too early to say that," Harbaugh said. "I would say not at this point, but that's a ways away."

The Ravens were missing three-fourths of their starting secondary by the second quarter against Miami and want to enter the postseason with a healthier defense. Humphrey clearly wanted to return against the Dolphins after being injured late in the first quarter., knowing Hamilton and Stephens were already out. Humphrey exited the medical tent and tested his calf by running on the sideline and briefly peddling on the exercise bike, but he did not re-enter the game.

"He wanted to, but it wasn't meant to be," Harbaugh said.

Ben Cleveland Rises to Occasion Starting at Right Guard

With Zeitler out, Ben Cleveland made his first start of the season and Harbaugh was pleased with what he saw. Cleveland played every snap and didn't allow a single quarterback pressure, earning the offensive line’s top pass blocking grade.

A third-round pick in 2021, Cleveland hasn't seen much playing time during his career, but Harbaugh thinks the third-year guard might have turned a corner. 

"One of the great stories of the game," Harbaugh said. "He played very well. You've seen it in practice with Ben, really all season. One of the things he didn't have a chance to do sometimes early in his career was stack practices, because he had little nicks and bruises and things like that kept him out.

"He's stacked a whole season's worth of practices and to me it showed up in the game. He played really well – run blocking, pass blocking, really all of it. I thought he had an excellent game."

Rashod Bateman's Perseverance Is Paying Dividends

Rashod Bateman was an offensive catalyst Sunday with a season-high four catches for 54 yards, including several difficult grabs. Harbaugh said he wasn't surprised to see Bateman flash and told the third-year wide receiver on Friday that he looked primed to have a strong game.

"Rashod, he's been through so much adversity, basically the injuries," Harbaugh said. "High pick, high expectations, fighting through injuries. Just grinding every single day, going to work, stacking practices. Maybe he didn't get as many balls as he wanted, maybe he didn't make the catch he wanted to make. Yet, not letting that get him down and knowing a big game was coming.

"I saw him Friday –and I said, 'Big game 'Bate. It's going to be a big game for 'Bate' and he came up with some massive catches for us. He kept some drives going. That's just a prelude to what's coming."

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