Trace McSorley has worked hard all season, waiting for his opportunity. It could finally come Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lamar Jackson won't play, with the Ravens having clinched the No. 1 seed. Robert Griffin III is scheduled to start, but McSorley will dress as Griffin's backup and Head Coach John Harbaugh said the rookie could see his first game action.
The sixth-round quarterback from Penn State is understandably excited.
"It's a big opportunity, (I) just have to ready," McSorley said. "You don't necessarily know when, or if it will come, but you want to be ready if that moment presents itself."
It's been a transition year for McSorley, who was used to taking all the reps as the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions. He has learned a lot from Jackson, who's having an MVP-caliber season, and a seasoned veteran like Griffin, who won the Rookie of the Year Award in his first NFL season (2012) with the Washington Redskins.
Griffin has been on the practice field and in quarterback meetings with McSorley all season, and has come away impressed.
"Trace has been awesome, man," Griffin said. "A rookie coming in, he's been very good in the room with us, helping us on game day. I can't say enough good things about him. He works hard, he's dedicated. I know coach says they want to get him in a little bit."
McSorley looked good in the preseason, completing 56.7 percent of his passes for 533 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
McSorley is likely to get more practice reps this week, but he's been preparing every week like he was going to play. He credited Quarterbacks Coach James Urban for keeping him focused.
"With Urban all year, he's kind of made sure I've been on that," McSorley said. "I've kind of been in that mode all year. Even though I wasn't playing I was still staying into it.
"It's a top-level defense (the Steelers). They pose a lot of challenges for us. It's a good opportunity for us, for our team to finish this year on a good note."
'Duck' Hodges Will Start Against Ravens After Mason Rudolph Is Placed on IR
The Steelers officially placed quarterback Mason Rudolph on injured reserve Tuesday with a shoulder injury, paving the way for Devlin "Duck" Hodges to start against the Ravens in Week 17.
This won't be Hodges' first action against the Ravens. In Week 5, Hodges entered the game after Rudolph suffered a concussion on a hit by Ravens safety Earl Thomas III.
Baltimore squeaked out a 26-23 win in overtime, but Hodges played well in relief, completing 7-of-9 passes for 68 yards, and he also rushed for 20 yards on two carries. However, Hodges has struggled lately, and he was benched Sunday against the New York Jets before Rudolph suffered his injury.
When asked about Hodges' readiness to play well against the Ravens, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin didn't give a ringing endorsement.
Tomlin said the undrafted rookie, who has thrown six interceptions to one touchdown the past two games, will have to protect the ball better.
"Some questions get answered in-stadium," Tomlin said via PittsburghSteelers.com. "There's nothing wrong with (Hodges') preparation. There's nothing wrong with his approach, his attitude, and things of that nature. But the questions you're asking don't get answered until we get into the stadium. I can trick myself in terms of seeking comfort and looking for clues and things of that nature, but we're not in that world. We're going to prepare. He's going to prepare. And we're going to put our best foot forward and go play this game and play to win."
L.J. Fort Could've Had Two Interceptions Against Browns
The stat sheet says Ravens inside linebacker L.J. Fort didn't have an interception in Cleveland on Sunday, but he easily could've had two picks.
Late in the first quarter, Fort made a spectacular one-handed snag of a pass thrown by Baker Mayfield, but the interception was nullified by a holding call against the Ravens.
In the third quarter, Fort made a diving attempt to pick off another pass thrown by Mayfield. It was called an interception on the field, but that ruling was overturned by the replay official. Fort still insists he caught the ball cleanly.
"Oh yeah, for sure I caught it," Fort said. "It hit the ground, but I had control. I should have rolled over to make it obvious."
Head Coach John Harbaugh was also confused by the replay ruling.
"I want to compare that interception to the one in Pittsburgh No. 55 [linebacker Devin Bush] had, when the ball didn't move or did move when it hit the ground, didn't lose control and lost control," Harbaugh said. "I don't get it. I don't know. Explain it to me, please, so we can understand it. But I thought that he got an interception there, yes."
Fort spent parts of three seasons with the Steelers (2015-17), and he was praised by Tomlin on Tuesday, calling Fort "a veteran player who knows how to play."
The Ravens' 11-game winning streak began after Fort and fellow inside linebacker Josh Bynes were signed prior to the Week 5 game in Pittsburgh. Fort, who was signed to a two-year contract extension in November, says the Ravens will play with intensity Sunday regardless of who's in the lineup.
"The dedication doesn't change," Fort said. "Every time you get an opportunity to play, it's part of your resume."
Michael Pierce Endorses John Harbaugh's New Music Policy
During his four seasons with the Ravens, defensive tackle Michael Pierce has noticed Harbaugh's willingness to adapt to what players want.
Pierce said Harbaugh is allowing music in the locker room before pregame warmups for the first time this season. Pierce likes the change, and it's hard to argue with how the team has performed.
"A big thing this year, he let us have music in the locker room before pregame," Pierce said. "When I first got here, [it was] super quiet, super intense. You could cut the tension with a knife. So, yes, we have a DJ in Jimmy Smith. He does a good job. Coach 'Harbs' is adapting to his guys, and he's doing a great job."