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Flying With the Flock: Ravens vs. Steelers Preview January 1st

Ravens vs. Steelers Preview January 1st

Read all of Peter’s Ravens Coverage

RAVENS VS. STEELERS PREVIEW JANUARY 1ST – In the last matchup between these teams, Ravens quarterbacks combined for 17 pass attempts.

With Lamar Jackson out for a fourth straight week, expect another run-heavy formula from Baltimore on Sunday.

The Ravens have led the NFL in rushing over the past three weeks, a refreshing development given the ground game’s shaky start to the season.

The Steelers’ defensive front let the Ravens gallop for over 200 yards against them three weeks ago, getting obliterated by Baltimore’s powerful O-line. Ahead of that game, I detailed how Pittsburgh’s pass defense was total feast or famine, getting gashed for yardage but also managing to force plenty of turnovers.

The short time since then hasn’t brought about any changes. In fact, they’re now intercepting passes at the highest rate in the league. If Lamar were playing, maybe I’d say air it out and trust him to hit some risky throws, but not with Huntley in.

The most charitable  description of Huntley is “limited,” and watching him as a non-Ravens fan, I’m told, is a tough watch. He’s not bad; he’s just incredibly conservative with the football.

Snoop’s performance a week ago was a different story as he routinely pushed the ball downfield, challenging Atlanta’s secondary.

His style a week ago isn’t the model of sustainability, especially against this week’s defense, but a shot play every once in a while to keep the defense on their toes needs to be a weekly occurrence.

 Can he Pickett? Yes, He Can!

Speaking of things that aren’t sustainable: Don’t expect the Ravens to force another three interceptions the way they did the last time around. For one, barring any unforeseen injury, the Ravens will be playing a different quarterback on Sunday.

Kenny Pickett started the week 14 matchup but was concussed by Roquan Smith on Pittsburgh’s opening drive. The rookie quarterback showed some panache last week against the Raiders, leading a 76-yard, go-ahead drive in frigid conditions.

If he can just be serviceable, to have the capacity to merely begin to take advantage of the Steelers’ copious receiving talent, their offense could pose some problems.

George Pickens trounced Marlon Humphrey in the two’s last head-to-head meeting, so this rematch should be enticing.

Baltimore’s mid-season defensive revival, catalyzed by the acquisition of Roquan Smith, ensures that it will be tough sledding for the Steelers’ offense.

Over the past few weeks, the Ravens’ defense has looked like a top-five unit in the sport, and the numbers back it.

While none of the offenses they’ve faced recently can be described as lethal, Baltimore has held six of their previous seven opponents to under 20 points.

Regardless of the competition, that’s something to be proud of in the scoring bonanza that is the modern-day NFL.  

Just Run It, Roman

Greg Roman needs to stick to his strength because right now, it’s working.

As mentioned earlier, he’s coordinating the best rushing attack in the league over the past three weeks.

For as good as he’s been, I’m waiting for a clunker to strike. The Cleveland game two weeks ago was the perfect example of how he tends to mismanage games.

While facing Cleveland’s 25th-ranked rushing defense, Roman inexplicably abandoned an effective run game to throw the ball 30 times.

Only the man upstairs and G-RO himself know why he occasionally just refuses to run the ball, but I do have some theories. Maybe he’s heard all the outside noise and is set on proving he knows how to coordinate a competent passing game.

Or maybe he has an unannounced partnership with “Impractical Jokers,” where they feed him outlandish play calls and film Ravens fans’ reactions. Just think, with all the cameras fans are accustomed to seeing at an NFL game, they’d never notice a couple more hidden around the stadium.

I’m convinced we’ve all been punked. Whatever his motivation, Roman needs to quell the urge to ruin this game so the Ravens have a chance at the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. 

Final Thoughts

From a psychological perspective, this game has just the right amount of implications to ensure a solid product.

It’s not some win-or-go-home scenario where we’ve seen Baltimore choke in previous seasons (also New Year’s adjacent (iykyk)).

But it matters enough that it’d be impossible to chalk up a loss to the game being overlooked. Just like every game since week 2, it won’t be pretty, but then again, late-season football in the AFC North never is.

 Final Score

 Ravens 20, Steelers 13

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