The Ravens (13-3) will face the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Baltimore. Here are predictions from The Baltimore Banner’s sports staff.
Kyle Goon, columnist
Here are a few critical factors we already know. Lamar Jackson won’t be playing. The Ravens have nothing to gain, while the Steelers are fighting for a playoff spot. Baltimore is also plenty banged up, with Kyle Hamilton, Brandon Stephens and Zay Flowers looking dicey on the injury report. John Harbaugh can have only so many inactives, but he’ll likely not want to risk some of his most dynamic playmakers in a game with nothing to earn but pride.
All that being said, sometimes pride counts for a lot. The Steelers are rolling with Mason Rudolph, who has definitely given the offense a shot in the arm. But given the Ravens’ pressure and coverage success this year, I don’t foresee Pittsburgh rolling up 30 points on even an understaffed Baltimore defense.
The loss earlier this season in Pittsburgh is one of the true stingers of the year, and Mike Tomlin has eaten the Ravens’ lunch the past few meetings, so the motivation to win should be built in. Assuming Tyler Huntley is ready to roll, I’m going to stick with my midseason prediction that the Ravens finish the season with a 14-3 record, wrapping up the regular season with a surprise victory at home.
Ravens 23, Steelers 17
Jonas Shaffer, reporter
Mason Rudolph is on a bit of a heater for Pittsburgh, but I’m not sure how many NFL general managers would pick him to lead an offense over Tyler Huntley. Rudolph started the season as the third-stringer in an objectively bad Steelers quarterback room; Huntley, one of the NFL’s better backups, has gone nearly blow for blow in big-game spots against Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow over his career. Huntley’s quick trigger should also limit the sting of Pittsburgh’s strong pass rush, though it is fair to wonder how the Ravens’ running game will fare without Lamar Jackson.
With rain in the forecast, though, defense and special teams will have to deliver the Ravens a win. Over and over this season, they’ve shown they have the depth, coaching and schemes to limit passing attacks as talented as the Steelers’. If the spine of the defense can hold up against Pittsburgh’s running game, even with key contributors sidelined or limited, Justin Tucker and the Ravens’ home crowd should have enough to keep their winning streak alive.
Ravens 20, Steelers 17
Giana Han, reporter
There’s always motivation to beat a rival, but this game has a whole lot more significance to the Steelers. Even if they win, several other things have to happen for them to get into the playoffs, but it starts with winning. The Ravens’ playoff seeding will not change based on the results of the game. They’ll just have the pleasure of lowering the chances their rivals get in.
Of course the news Lamar Jackson isn’t playing changes things, but the Steelers’ starter is out as well. And Tyler Huntley has more NFL game experience than Mason Rudolph, despite Rudolph’s recent success. He might even compare to their starter, Kenny Pickett. The Ravens have outperformed the Steelers in most aspects of the game, outside of what outside linebacker T.J. Watt has done (the Ravens had seven Pro Bowl selections to the Steelers’ three, if that means anything). The Ravens also might sit or limit more players than Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Marlon Humphrey, which would change the tenor of the game, but I still think the motivation of righting the wrongs from the October game will push the Ravens over the top.
Ravens 24, Steelers 21
Chris Korman, editor
It’ll be wet and cold. The Ravens will sit a lot of key players. Seems like a good chance there will be an abnormally large number of Steelers fans. The game matters to Pittsburgh and not to Baltimore.
All of which means the Steelers are the favorite, and this Ravens team seems to thrive when doubted.
Ravens 20, Steelers 18
Brandon Weigel, editor
If the prices in the secondary market are any indication, Baltimore fans are checked out for this game and thinking ahead to the playoffs. The rainy, sleety, snowy forecast certainly doesn’t motivate one to sit in the stands for a meaningless game — at least as it relates to the Ravens and their position in the standings. While I have no doubt the Ravens who take the field will give their all, there’s also the reality that quarterback Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., cornerback Marlon Humphrey and right guard Kevin Zeitler are sitting this one out, and wide receiver Zay Flowers is listed as doubtful. Many of the team’s regular starters who play will likely do so in a limited capacity, so as not to risk injury.
The Steelers (9-7), meanwhile, are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but they have a puncher’s chance if they close out the regular season with a win. Since coach Mike Tomlin called on quarterback Mason Rudolph to be the starter, the team has won two straight, including an impressive 30-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on the road. Pittsburgh appears to be in good health, and with the backing of an inordinate amount of yinzers at M&T Bank Stadium waving Terrible Towels, Tomlin & Co. get the job done and hope for help.
Steelers 24, Ravens 20