Stephen A. Smith on Tyler Huntley: 'This Brother Can Play'
It goes without saying that losing a player as impactful as Lamar Jackson to injury for any length of time is a tough blow, but ESPN's Stephen A. Smith says it's not a fatal one in regard to the Ravens 'playoff aspirations.
Smith's optimistic outlook for the Ravens is largely rooted in his belief in backup quarterback Tyler Huntley's ability to lead the offense while Jackson — who is dealing with a knee injury that reportedly is expected to sideline him for one-to-three weeks — is sidelined.
"That is a quarterback I wish the Pittsburgh Steelers had," Smith, an admitted Steelers fan, said on "First Take." "I like Huntley. This brother can play. I understand that he's a backup, but watch him play. And don't go by the record; go by what you see on the football field. He makes plays. He can be a difference-maker. Put him around the right people, he can make some things happen. This brother is not a scrub. He can play."
Smith cited the Ravens' improved defense as another reason why he isn't concerned about how the team will fare without Jackson. The Associated Press’ Noah Trister also believes the defense will help to keep the Ravens in playoff contention.
"Lamar Jackson's injury may put even more pressure on the Baltimore Ravens' defense. Lately, that unit has been up to the challenge," Trister wrote. "Baltimore has held two of its last three opponents without a touchdown. If that keeps up, the Ravens can still win despite their offensive concerns.
"The Ravens rank 13th in the NFL in total defense, but the advanced stats tell a more promising story. They're ninth on that side of the ball in Football Outsiders' DVOA stat — sixth against the run and 11th against the pass. Baltimore has come a long way since Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Ravens 42-38 in Week 2. The Ravens have added players like Roquan Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul and welcomed back Tyus Bowser from an injury. In its past nine games, Baltimore has allowed an average of just 288 yards."
Ryan Shazier on Ravens-Steelers Rivalry: 'There's Respect, But Also Disrespect'
Ahead of Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game in Pittsburgh, former Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier appeared on FanDuel TV's "Up & Adams" and was asked for the defining moment for him in the intense rivalry between the AFC North foes.
Shazier referenced a playoff game in Pittsburgh between the two teams in the 2014 season, which the Ravens won, 30-17.
"My rookie year, we played them in the playoffs, and so this is why I got a bad taste in my mouth for the Ravens. … In the playoffs at home, Justin Tucker hits like a 58-yard field goal to win the game, and I was just like, 'Yeah, I hate these guys,'" Shazier said.
It was actually a 52-yarder and it wasn't a game-winner, but it did give the Ravens an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. While Shazier's recollection of the moment might be a little fuzzy, his hatred for the Ravens is crystal clear.
Shazier said the other defining moment in the rivalry occurred in a 2017 Ravens-Steelers game.
"We were on a roll, and before the game I was like, 'If I get a turnover, I'm doing the Ray Lewis dance if I catch an interception or something. And I ended up doing it. I feel like there's a level of respect [between the two teams], but there's also a level of disrespect because of how much we don't like each other. It really reminds me of Ohio State-Michigan, that type of rivalry," said Shazier, who played for the Buckeyes.
Ravens Are Well-Represented in Pro Bowl Voting
You don't have to be Steve Kornacki to see that the Ravens are doing well in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.
As a team, the Ravens have the fourth-most votes, trailing the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. Individually, Tucker and guard Kevin Zeitler are No. 1 in the AFC at their respective positions.
Twelve other Ravens are in the top five at their positions.