Predictions for Ravens vs. Steelers
Who's ready for some Wednesday afternoon football?
Everything about 2020 hasn't seemed to make sense, and a game that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night will now be played after not one, not two, but three postponements.
"One of the most difficult and confounding weeks in franchise history is over and it appears that the Ravens finally have a game to play," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
While neither team will be at full strength because of COVID-19, Wednesday's game has plenty on the line. The Ravens (6-4) are fighting for a playoff spot in the AFC, while the undefeated Steelers (10-0) have a chance to claim a playoff berth this week.
The majority of pundits we looked at (34 of 36) believe the Steelers will prevail. The Ravens are 10-point underdogs, however, there's some history of backup quarterbacks pulling off upsets in this rivalry.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are predicting for the game:
Ravensare in 'survival mode'
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "This is a bigger game for the Ravens, who are almost in survival mode now. But the Steelers are pushing forward for an undefeated season and can basically lock up the division with a win here. The Ravens have struggled to throw it, which is not a good thing against the Steelers. The Ravens will fight and keep in this game, but the Steelers will win it late – just like the last meeting."
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "The Ravens would love nothing more than to be the team to give the Steelers their first loss of the season, but I just don't see greatness from Baltimore this year. The Ravens are going to lose, and struggle to reach playoff contention."
Ravenswill still rely on the ground game, even without Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "Jackson is the Ravens' top rusher, but they did roll up 223 yards on the ground in the game Griffin started against Pittsburgh last season. The Ravens lead the league in rushing but have fallen to fifth in yards per attempt after ranking first in 2019."
NFL.com's Maurice Jones-Drew: "Although the Ravens lost their first meeting to the Steelers back in Week 8, 28-24, Baltimore ran the ball extremely well, racking up a season-high 265 rushing yards (third-most in a game by any team this season). ... Focusing on fundamentals and doing the little things right will allow the Ravens to shorten the game with the rushing attack and give them the best chance for success against this vaunted Steelers defense."
NBC Sports' Andrew Gillis: "The Ravens rely heavily on [Pat] Ricard's presence as a lane-clearing fullback, where he's one of the league's best. In terms of pound-for-pound as a blocker, he's one of the best blockers on the roster, too. Especially without tight end Nick Boyle, perhaps the league's best blocking tight end, the Ravens no longer have their usual lineup in the backfield or at tight end. Instead of finding replacements … the Ravens will have to get creative."
Steelerspass rush could get after Ravens' depleted O-line.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "Inside linebacker Robert Spillane starred for the Steelers in the Week 8 win over the Ravens with 11 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt also emerged as a key defender, sacking Jackson twice. … Whether the Ravens keep [D.J.] Fluker at right tackle or replace him, they'll need to do a better job blocking [T.J.] Watt. … Watt's the kind of rusher who could upend their chances of finding success with the passing game."
Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich: "The Ravens will be missing their top two centers on the depth chart — Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari. Trystan Colon-Castillo, an undrafted rookie, could be called into action. Baltimore could also shift left guard Bradley Bozeman to center, a position he played at the University of Alabama. … Baltimore has a competent backup quarterback in Robert Griffin III, but he will face a fierce Steelers pass rush that leads the NFL with 38 sacks."
|Source||Team Selected||Panelists Score||Comments|
|ESPN||8 of 9 panelists pick Steelers||N/A|
|Baltimore Sun (Dec. 1)||Steelers 31, Ravens 20||“The Ravens will probably be better prepared to compete than they would have been on Sunday or even Tuesday. But they’re still taking a ragtag roster to Pittsburgh to play an undefeated team with the best defense in football.” - Childs Walker|
|USA Today (Nov. 25)||6 of 7 panelists pick Steelers||N/A|
|NFL.com (Nov. 25)||Steelers 27, Ravens 14||“Robert Griffin III has not shown much reason in his limited chances with the Ravens to believe he could keep the team competitive against this Steelers defense.” - Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||3 of 3 panelists pick Steelers||N/A|
|Sporting News (Nov. 29)||Steelers 27, Ravens 20||The Ravens are going into this road game reeling from the devastating loss to the Titans and have new COVID-19 concerns. … Pittsburgh found its balance and explosiveness last week while Baltimore's once nasty defense keeps wilting everywhere.” - Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports (Nov. 25)||8 of 8 panelists pick Steelers||“The Ravens will fight and keep in this game, but the Steelers will win it late -- just like the last meeting.” - Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk (Nov.25)||2 of 2 panelists pick Steelers||“The Ravens would love nothing more than to be the team to give the Steelers their first loss of the season, but I just don’t see greatness from Baltimore this year.” - Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated (Nov. 26)||4 of 4 panelists pick Steelers||N/A|
|Fansided (Nov. 25)||Steelers 27, Ravens 21||“The Steelers are trying to stay ahead of Kansas City for the top seed in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Ravens, who haven’t practiced all week due to COVID-related issues, are attempting to essentially stay afloat in the playoff picture.” - Matt Verderame|
Ravens Loss 'Wouldn't Finish Them Off'
The Ravens have had the odds stacked against them this season, but one Pittsburgh media member isn't counting them out of the playoff hunt even if they lose on Wednesday.
"[T]hat wouldn't be ideal for the Ravens, but don't kid yourself — it wouldn't finish them off," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise wrote. "I actually think it wouldn't even put them on the brink of being finished. There are just too many variables and factors that are in their favor. They aren't just going to wilt away meekly; they are actually still going to be very much alive and kicking."
A loss against the Steelers would eliminate the Ravens from the AFC North race, but a wild-card spot is still in play.
Zeise believes Ravens are still one or the best three or four teams in the AFC once they get back to full strength from their COVID-19 outbreak.
"The Ravens' roster is better than that of the Browns, Colts and Dolphins, and those are three teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff chase," Zeise wrote. "I don't buy any of those three teams as being able to continue to hold off the Ravens because I think all three are flawed.
"The Ravens are better than all three of those teams and should be able to move past them. The Ravens also beat the Colts and already beat the Browns once (and a sweep is very likely), so they would hold the tiebreakers over those two teams. That all seems to favor the Ravens and their ability to make a playoff push in the final five games."
Not only could health benefit the Ravens, but so should their schedule. After the Steelers, four of their last five games come against teams with losing records.
There's a good chance the Ravens could finish the season at 11-5 or 10-6, which should be enough to earn them a wild-card spot in an expanded playoff field. And an experienced John Harbaugh-led team would be a difficult matchup in the postseason, no matter the year.
"There is a long road, I know, and a lot can happen and injuries are a factor, but the Ravens are actually in better position than it would appear if you look at the big picture," Zeise added. "Yes, the Steelers could beat the Ravens and put a dent in their playoff hopes, but it wouldn't be a major dent and it certainly wouldn't be the end of the line or anything close to that.
"The Ravens have had some setbacks, but they are still going to be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch and in the playoffs regardless of what happens Wednesday at Heinz Field."
Ravens and Steelers Can Make History Playing on Wednesday
We knew the NFL schedule was going to have to be flexible given the uncertainty of the pandemic, and it's been put to the test so far this season. Oddly enough, the Ravens and Steelers can help write history in a weird way Wednesday.
"If the game takes place, that means the NFL will have at least one game played on all seven days of the week over the course of the season," CBS Sports' John Breech wrote. "During a normal year, you'll almost never see a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday game get played, but this isn't a normal year and all three of those things are expected to happen.
"As long as Vikings-Saints and Ravens-Steelers both get played, then the NFL will see its first season ever with at least one game on each day of the week."
The Ravens can complete the pandemic cycle after a Week 5 matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills was played on Tuesday. Breech noted that Wednesday games are as rare as they come. Only one other game since 1950 has been played on a Wednesday.
Calais Campbell Was Ravens' Best Offseason Buy
Many considered the Ravens to have one of the strongest offseasons, and according to Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton, Calais Campbell was their best buy.
"General manager Eric DeCosta capitalized on a situation in which the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to move an older player's salary off their books," Moton wrote. "The Ravens placed Campbell on the reserve/COVID-19 list while he recovered from a calf injury, but he wreaked havoc before missing the last two games. The 34-year-old can still provide a spark on the front line, logging 24 tackles, five for loss, 10 quarterbacks hits, four sacks and six pass breakups."
The Ravens traded just a fifth-round draft pick to acquire Campbell from Jacksonville, then reworked his contract. He's made a significant impact on and off the field this season and has been a crucial part of the defensive success.
"Campbell continues to use his 6'8", 300-pound stature to bat down passes, penetrate the pocket and stop the run," Moton added. "The Ravens needed a pass-rusher to help out Matt Judon, and they found one and then some in a grizzled veteran."