Steelers Game Day Guide: Ravens Preview

Steelers Game Day Guide: Ravens Preview

Steeler Nation doesn’t just reside in the surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the team that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions always strive for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less. This is the preview that all fans of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! NGSC Sports writer Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation) brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive game plans, score prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and up to date team injury reports. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.

 

Ravens run out of appeals for stay of execution

The Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) have already had their bye week stolen from them this season thanks to the Tennessee Titans breaking COVID protocols, which resulted in the previously scheduled week four game vs the Titans (in which they practiced all week till being notified that the game was cancelled) being moved to October 25th, where they were supposed to be enjoying a week off.

It was an inconvenience that wasn’t well liked, but with all the madness going on in the world today, the Steelers found a way to deal with it.

Since then, several NFL teams have been put in dire situations because of COVID positive tests, including the Denver Broncos, who were forced to play an actual NFL game without a true quarterback on their roster, due to all four of theirs being forced out from positive tests or close contact with someone who was. The Broncos were humiliated by the Saints 31-3.

Then there is this week and the Baltimore Ravens (6-4).

When the schedule was released, this was a game that was circled on the calendar, as it featured two bitter rivals facing off against each other on Thanksgiving night in Pittsburgh.

What more could you ask for on Turkey Day than a nightcap like that?

The Steelers prepared for the short week, working on their game plan to possibly sew up the AFC North division with a win.

Then chaos ensued.

The Ravens started reporting positive test after positive test, each day, right into Wednesday. The news was not good for Baltimore, as it appeared that they would have to face the Steelers without their top two running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram. They’d also be down run stopping DL Brandon Williams and two starting linebackers.

Ouch! Not a good thing for a team facing Pittsburgh who was already 10-0 on the season and have already taken care of the Ravens 28-24 earlier in November.

Then the ball dropped on the Steelers Wednesday afternoon.

The game vs Baltimore would be moved to Sunday at 1:15 pm.

Here we go again, thought the Steelers, who figured to get a good four days off after their game Thanksgiving night.

“First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their (COVID) situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason. Smh,” JuJu Smith-Schuster wrote on Twitter.

Now the Steelers had to prepare for a game on Sunday. Head Coach Mike Tomlin could probably sense his team’s frustration, so he gave his team Thanksgiving off to spend with their families. The team came back to work Friday for more game prep, as the situation in Baltimore had gotten even worse. Now QB Lamar Jackson had tested positive, along with several more Ravens.

As of Friday afternoon, Baltimore had 22 players on the COVID-reserve list.

With that news, the Steelers had to revise their game plan to play a Baltimore team with Robert Griffin III at quarterback and Gus Edwards as their main starting RB. The Ravens would also be without their best receiver in TE Mark Andrews.

Then Friday evening arrived and the NFL once again intervened.

Call the circus… the game was now postponed yet again until Tuesday night at 8:20 pm.

One could only imagine what the Steelers were thinking when that news broke, but you could assume their thoughts were not rated PG.

Again, Pittsburgh would be forced to change their schedule, once getting ready for Thursday night, then Sunday afternoon, now Tuesday night.

This would cause the Steelers to have a practice on Sunday afternoon now, not to mention put them on a short week to face Washington the following Sunday at 1pm at Heinz Field.

Steelers DE Cam Heyward tried his best to be diligent about the situation.

“I think the main focus is we don’t care where we play,” Heyward said Sunday. “We don’t care how it’s played. We just want to play. When we get the all clear from the NFL, we will be ready, and that is all we can expect. Let our preparation reflect that and, when we do that, we can show it on the field.”

Little did Heyward know, because as if three delays weren’t enough, the Ravens continued to pout to the NFL about everything from being shorthanded, to the weather in Pittsburgh Tuesday afternoon, so…

The Clown Show that had become of this week continued, as the NFL, yet again, moved the game from Tuesday night to… 3:40 pm on Wednesday afternoon??

Say what?

Yes, the game was now moved to mid-week, mid-afternoon, as NBC decided that the Steelers-Ravens match-up as secondary to them broadcasting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree being lit up to a crowd of no one in desolate New York City. This is the same tree that looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man stepped on during his visit to the city in 1984. This also forced the Pittsburgh-Washington game to be moved to Monday, December 7th, at 5:00 pm. Yet another odd timeslot where Steelers fans will working or coming home from work, instead of enjoying the entire game.

The Ravens, by the way, had their game vs Dallas moved to Tuesday night at 8:20 pm, so they once again got their cake, and got to eat it all, too.

So, here we are, it’s 11pm here in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, and the game is still on for Wednesday at 3:40… we think.

”It’s day to day,” Mike Tomlin said. ”It’s a sensitive situation.”

Yes it is, Mike, yes it is.

So, here is what we know.

Robert Griffin III will start for the Ravens, and Pittsburgh hasn’t forgotten that he lead the Ravens to a victory over the Steelers last year in the season finale. Though Lamar Jackson will be out, no one on the Steelers will be taking the Ravens lightly.

”They have a mobile quarterback who has beaten us this last time,” Heyward said. ”Their defense is opportunistic, and they can be on long fields and have a kicker that can buy them out of any situation. I know we are dealing with a lot of uncertainly with guys going in and out, but we will deal with that when the time comes. We are ready for what they throw at us.”

Top running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins will be eligible to play, but will they? Neither has practiced and both will have to travel up to the game away from the team on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Gus Edwards will be the guy if called upon. Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard will not play.

James Conner will be out for the Steelers, so Benny Snell will get the keys to the Steelers running game, along with Anthony McFarland, Jr..

RGB III will not have many options to throw to. He will not have a single tight end to pass to, as Mark Andrews is out with COVID and Nick Boyle is out for the year. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will be the top receiving option, followed by Miles Boykin Devin Duvernay and James Proche II. Did we mention Dez Bryant, too?

The Ravens are a mess on the offensive line, and no matter how they shuffle their line-up, it’s going to be a big challenge for them to contain the Steelers defense and it’s pass rush.

Defensively, the Ravens are just as shorthanded. Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, DE Jihad Ward and DT Justin Madubuike are all on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams came off the list Tuesday, but has been ruled out because of his injured ankle.

Pro Bowler Matthew Judon and veteran Pernell McPhee are also on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

That is bad news against a Steelers offense that is scoring nearly 30 points per game.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has stated what he expects to see when his offense takes the field vs Baltimore.

“We have to break formations quicker,” said Fichtner. “We have to create more time at the line of scrimmage for protection calls. We have to play with a little better sense of urgency. We drop a ball here, and we may be off a little bit on route depth. Maybe a decision made by Ben [Roethlisberger] is one he would want to have back. Maybe a little edge in protection. We had our moments running the ball, but they weren’t consistent enough. I think just all of that, the guys have a lot of pride. We want to score points. We want to score a lot of points. We want to score every time we get the ball. Sometimes they do things that prevent you from doing that. A lot of times we look at ourselves and say that we kept ourselves from doing that. The game has usually always been about us.”

Baltimore will come into this game both shorthanded and desperate. Another loss will severely hamper their efforts to make the playoffs in 2020.

Tomlin says the same goes for his squad.

“We’re desperate, too,” Tomlin insisted. “We’re all desperate to win this week. I’d imagine they view us in the same way, or I imagine it would behoove them to do so.

“That’s our attitude each and every week. We respect everyone and respect the level of desperation that everyone has and the urgency that everyone has, and we step into the stadium ready to match it.”

 

Prediction

How do you put this mildly? This may be a game in which the Steelers play in a controlled rage. They were already angry about having the bye week taken away, then they had their minivacation plans burned when this game was postponed not, once, not twice, but THREE times!! Now the team will have to play three games in 12 days, including the inconvenience of having the play Washington next Monday at 5pm. This is a team that already despises the Ravens, and collectively feels angry about the lack of respect despite being 10-0.

The fire was already lit, but now it’s a raging inferno, and the Ravens are fresh out of appeals. This is a Cobra Kai, “No mercy”, and “Sweep the leg” type of game. No letting up until Baltimore crawls onto the field and throws the white towel, and even then, continuing to stomp away… Steelers 38 Ravens 9

 

Steelers Offensive Game Plan

  1. Spread the wealth: Look for Ben Roethlisberger to utilize all of his weapons in this game, keeping the downtrodden Ravens defense on their heels on who to they try to contain.
  2. Power run game: Enough trying to be cute running outside. Create some space and run between the tackles with Benny Snell. The Ravens will be down DT Brandon Williams, LB Pernell McPhee, LB Matthew Judon, and DE Calais Campbell. If ever there was a game to establish the run, this is it.

Steelers Defensive Game Plan

  1. Load the box: With Robert Griffin III at quarterback with absolutely no one to throw to, the Steelers should put eight in the box and completely shut down the Ravens vaunted rushing attack, regardless if J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram play.
  2. Shut down Hollywood Brown: Marquis Brown is basically the only reliable weapon available for RGB III to throw to. Take him out with Joe Haden covering and force the Ravens to look elsewhere.
  3. Play takeaway and bring the pain: Take advantage of a depleted Ravens team, and basically knock the will out their desire to play. Expect to hear the pads a popping this game. The Steelers defense will be in a foul mood.

 

 

A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers

Overall record: 10-0 (1st in AFC North)

Head coach: Mike Tomlin (13th Season with Steelers)

  • Overall regular-season record: 143-74-1
  • Playoff record: 8-7 (Qualified for playoffs 8 times)

2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster

Steelers Team/Individual Statistics

Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Schedule 

Last game: Steelers 27 Jaguars 3

 

Steelers Offense

  • Points per game: 29.4
  • Total yards per game: 347.8
  • Passing yards per game: 245.6
  • Rushing yards per game: 102.2

Strengths: The passing game behind the arm of Ben Roethlisberger and a variety of weapons to choose from.

Weaknesses: The rushing attack, especially in short-yardage situations. Offensive line needs to start creating some push and space.

Scouting report: Ben Roethlisberger is playing as good as he ever has in his eventual HOF career. Big Ben has 24 touchdowns so far and passed for 2,534 yards and five interceptions. He has only been sacked 10 times.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool lead a talented trio of wide receivers. Johnson has 49 receptions for 537 yards and four touchdowns. Claypool is having a big rookie year with 39 catches for 559 yards and eight TDs. Claypool also has rushed for 22 yards and two more touchdowns. Smith-Schuster leads the team with 58 catches for 535 yards and five touchdowns. James Washington (21-244-4) can line up anywhere and comes up with big catches when his number gets called. TE’s Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald give Big Ben huge targets across the middle and down in the red zone. Ebron has been a Big Ben favorite and now has 35 catches for 359 yards and four scores.

The offensive line does a pretty good job protecting Roethlisberger, but they need to step up their play in providing room in the running game. James Conner has rushed for 645 yards and five scores and has 25 receptions for 145 yards. Benny Snell looks good in his 2nd year, leaner and a hint faster. He rushed for 113 yards in the opener when Conner sustained an ankle injury and has 195 overall with three touchdowns.

Now Snell gets another shot with Conner out this week, and possibly vs Washington. Anthony McFarland, Jr. has been plugged into the rushing attack and has run for 67 yards on 20 carries.

Ray-Ray McCloud has been used as an x-factor type weapon, gaining 65 yards on four carries, and has 14 catches for 70 yards.

This is an offense capable of putting up big numbers weekly, especially when they finish drives in the endzone instead of settling for field goals.

The Steelers are 4th in the NFL averaging 29.4 points per game.

 

Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger / Back-up: Mason Rudolph

Running Backs: James Conner*, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jr., and Jaylen Samuels*

Fullback: Derek Watt

Wide Receivers: Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud III

Tight Ends: Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald

*Injured/Out

 

Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)

  • Points per game allowed: 17.4
  • Total offense yards per game allowed: 306.9
  • Passing yards allowed: 203.5
  • Rushing yards allowed: 103.4
  • Sacks: 38
  • Interceptions: 15

Strengths: A relentless pass rush, tough run defense, and creating turnovers.

Weaknesses: Sometimes have issues getting off the field on 3rd downs, allowing opposing quarterback too much time by not blitzing.

Scouting report: One of the top units in the NFL. They are fast and physical. Pittsburgh defends the run well and puts constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a variety of blitzes. Cam Heyward anchors the defensive line and is a yearly all-pro, with the vastly underappreciated Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu alongside him. Tuitt has seven sacks in 2020.

OLB T.J. Watt is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and he is aided by Bud Dupree on the other side. Watt and Dupree have combined for 17 sacks. Inside LB Vince Williams is stout against the run, as is the hard-hitting Robert Spillane, who replaced star LB Devin Bush who tore his ACL. Avery Williamson joins the team after being traded from the NY Jets.

Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick leads an impressive secondary with two good corners in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Strong safety Terrell Edmunds never gets the credit he deserves but is always around the ball. Fitzpatrick has four interceptions to lead the team.

Mike Hilton is the most unheralded player on the defense, a do-everything player in Pittsburgh’s nickel package. Hilton has three sacks, one interception, and 30 tackles in just five games.

The splash play Steelers have recorded 40 sacks so far and 15 interceptions. They lead the NFL allowing just 17.4 points per game.

 

Special Teams

Placekicker: Chris Boswell

  • Extra Points: 30-33
  • 1-19 yards: 0-0
  • 20-29 yards: 2-2
  • 30-39 yards: 6-6
  • 40-49 yards: 7-8
  • 50+ yards: 1-1

Scouting report: Chris Boswell is solid as ever at place-kicker. Ray-Ray McCloud is making a name for himself, averaging 24.2 yards per kickoff return, and 13.5 per punt return.

Punter: Jordan Berry

Kickoff Returners: Anthony McFarland, Jr. and Ray-Ray McCloud

Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud

 

A look at the Baltimore Ravens

Overall record: 6-4 (3rd in AFC North)

Head coach: John Harbaugh (13th season with Ravens)

  • Overall regular-season record: 124-78
  • Playoff record: 10-7

2020 Baltimore Ravens roster

Baltimore Team/Individual Statistics

Last game: Titans 30 Ravens 24 OT

 

Ravens Offense

  • Points per game: 26.8
  • Total Offense per game: 343.9
  • Passing yards per game: 183.4
  • Rushing yards per game: 160.5

Strengths: Relentless rushing attack lead by Lamar Jackson’s legs and field vision. Great tight end in Mark Andrews.

Weaknesses: Consistency in passing game. Below average wide receivers. Offensive line.

Scouting report: Lamar Jackson is having a good, but not great year, as compared to last season. Jackson and the Ravens offense is averaging 26.8 points per game. They employ a balanced offense, gaining 343.9 yards per game, only gaining 183.4 through the air, and 160.5 on the ground.

Jackson leads the team with 575 yards rushing with three touchdowns. He has thrown for 1,948 yards with 15 TD’s and six interceptions. He has been sacked 24 times.

All that is for naught, as Robert Griffin III will start for Jackson who is on the COVID list. RGB III has just nine yards passing and an interception this year.

The Ravens top target at wide receiver is Marquise Brown, who leads the receiving corps with 32 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns. After Brown, the group is lackluster, at best. Willie Snead IV (28-379-3) has played well of late, but is out. Myles Boykin (14-153-1), Devin Duvernay (15-179-0), James Proche II, and Dez Bryant round out the group.

Tight end Mark Andrews is Jackson’s top threat, having found the endzone six times off of 38 receptions for 434 yards. Nick Boyle has turned in 14 receptions for 113 yards and a pair of TD’s. Both are out, Andrews for this game, and Boyle for the year.

Mark Ingram was the lead back but has been overtaken by rookie J.K. Dobbins. Ingram has rushed for 232 yards and two touchdowns and Dobbins has 380 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Both are eligible to play, but neither has practiced in a week. That leaves Gus Edwards as the possible starter Wednesday, and he has rushed for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Justice Hill will be the back-up.

 

Starting Quarterback: Lamar Jackson* | Back-ups: Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley

Running Backs: J.K. Dobbins, Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill

Wide Receivers: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead IV*, Myles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, and Dez Bryant

Tight Ends: Mark Andrews* and Nick Boyle*

*Injured/out

 

Ravens Defense (Base 4-3) 

  • Points per game allowed: 19.5
  • Total offense yards per game allowed: 333
  • Passing yards allowed: 217
  • Rushing yards allowed: 116
  • Sacks: 27
  • Interceptions: 5

Strengths: Pass rush, before the players sitting out on COVID reserve list.

Weaknesses: Run defense will be tested with LB Pernell McPhee, LB Matthew Judon and DT Brandon Williams all out, as well as Calais Campbell, too.

Scouting report: Allowing 19.5 points per game, which is 3rd in the NFL. They might not be the Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs Raven defenses of the past, but they get the job done, as did their predecessors.

Baltimore has collected 27 sacks, with DE Calais Campbell and LB Matthew Judon leading the team with four. LB’S Tyus Bowser, Patrick Queen, and Pernell McPhee all have two sacks each. CB Marlon Humphrey has 2.5 sacks and one interception. Queen leads the team with 70 tackles.

Will be severely shorthanded with LB Pernell McPhee, LB Matthew Judon, DT Brandon Williams out, and DE Calais Campbell out.

 

Special Teams

Placekicker: Justin Tucker

  • Extra Points: 20-20
  • 1-19 yards: 0-0
  • 20-29 yards: 2-2
  • 30-39 yards: 3-3
  • 40-49 yards: 7-7
  • 50+ yards: 1-2

Scouting report: Justin Tucker remains one of the league’s best kickers. KR Devin Duvernay is very dangerous in returns. He is averaging 30.5 yards per return with one touchdown. James Proche is the punt returner averaging 8.7 yards a return.

 

Game Day Information

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Field: Kentucky Blue Grass

Game-time: Wednesday, December 2nd, at 3:40 pm

TV: NBC (Local on WPXI-TV)

  • Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play) Chris Collinsworth (analyst) | Michele Tafoya (reporter)

Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM

  • Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)

Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com

Weather at kickoff: 39 with a 10% chance of flurries.  Winds SE 10 mph.

Vegas line: Steelers -10

NFL StandingsNFL Scoreboard

 

Steelers vs Ravens History

Steelers are 29-24 overall vs Ravens

  • Series History: Began in 1996
  • At home: 17-11
  • On the road: 12-13
  • Postseason: 3-1
  • Streak: Steelers won the last game.
  • Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 28-24 (Nov. 1, 2020)
  • Last postseason meeting: Ravens Win, 30-17 (Jan. 3, 2015)

 

Injury Report (12/1/20)

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Out: RB Jaylen Samuels (Quadriceps)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: CB Joe Haden (Knee)

Baltimore Ravens

  • Out: QB Lamar Jackson, FB Patrick Ricard, TE Mark Andrews, TE Nick Boyle, OL Patrick Mekari, OL Matt Skura, OL Will Holden, DE Calais Campbell, DE Jihad Ward, DE Broderick, DT Justin Madubuike, DT Brandon Williams, OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Jaylon Ferguson, OLB Matthew Judon, CB Iman Marshall (IR), CB Tavon Young (IR), CB Khalil Dorsey (IR), and LS Morgan Cox
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: RB J.K. Dobbins, RB Mark Ingram

 

Author Profile

Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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