It is an unaccustomed luxury in Baltimore to enter week 17 without the need to win. Baltimore’s playoff hopes have hinged on a week 17 victory since 2017, but in 2019, the Ravens will enter the final week of the regular season already locked into the conference’s top seed. Aside from playing for pride, the year’s final regular-season game has no meaning for Baltimore. A loss does not lower the Ravens’ postseason standing, nor does a win raise it. The Ravens decided not to take any chances in a meaningless game. The team announced that many starters, including Lamar Jackson, Marshal Yanda, and Earl Thomas, will not play. Baltimore will not be at full strength, but the Ravens always play to win.
Ravens Quarterbacks vs Steelers’ Defensive Scheme
With Lamar Jackson on the sidelines this Sunday, backup quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorely will need to overcome the Steelers’ defensive scheme. Griffin will start, but the Ravens indicated that Trace McSorely will also take the field at some point in the game. Both players are sure to be rusty. Griffin struggled against the Jets after he relieved Jackson. His only pass attempt fell incomplete, as it was a poorly thrown short ball to fullback Patrick Ricard. Trace McSorely has not attempted a pass all season, nor has he even suited up on a Sunday. Both quarterbacks, while fast for their positions, are still slow relative to Lamar Jackson. The entire dynamic of the offense will change with Griffin and McSorely under center, and both quarterbacks will need to combat the Steelers’ defensive scheme, much more competent against quarterbacks not named Lamar Jackson.
Ravens Pass Rush vs Steelers Offensive Line
Since Ben Roethlisberger’s injury earlier this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers have suffered from the absence of their starter. Roethlisberger’s injury forced the Steelers to start Mason Rudolph in his place. Injuries and poor play forced the Steelers to turn to Delvin Hodges, the undrafted rookie from Samford. “Duck” Hodges has not been much better for the Steelers though, and Pittsburgh has struggled all year to find an offensive identity. The Ravens can take advantage of the inexperienced, and underperforming quarterbacks at the helm of the Steelers’ offense. Consistent pressure on Hodges, and/or Rudolph if he is subbed in, will force these young quarterbacks into difficult situations, situations they may not be able to overcome.
Ravens Must Take Advantage of an Absent James Conner
The Steelers offense cannot depend on the quarterback to move the ball through the air, but they cannot depend on the ground attack either. Pittsburgh’s ground game has struggled all year, and starting running back, James Conner was ruled out for Sunday’s game. The Baltimore Ravens must take advantage of his absence, and feast against Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels. If the Ravens can neutralize Pittsburgh’s ground attack, it will force the Steelers to put more effort into the air, where they are most vulnerable.
Bynes will be critical in attacking the Steelers’ ground game. He and L.J. Fort will need to hold down the middle of the front seven against the rush.
Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III is going to start his first game since 2016, and the chances of a Ravens win will hinge on his performance. Accurate passes are key, and Griffin must keep up the Lamar Jackson designed scheme. Griffin will not be as dynamic as Jackson, but he can run the scheme with his athletic abilities.
Mark Ingram will not play against the Steelers, so Gus Edwards will get the starting nod. Edwards will need to establish a strong rushing attack to stabilize a Lamar Jackson-less offense.
Originally I thought the Ravens would fall to the Steelers, because many starters will rest, but the more I think about it, the more I favor the Ravens. Pittsburgh will be without starting center Maurkice Pouncey and starting running back James Conner. Without their offensive line’s leader, and the stabilizing force of a ground game, I find it hard to believe that Delvin Hodges and the offense will be able to score many points, with or without starters on defense. Furthermore, the Ravens are in good hands with Gus Edwards at running back. If all goes wrong, Baltimore will be able to pound on the ground and put up some points. I’m taking Baltimore in a close, low scoring battle.