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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 29 September 2018 by Luke Jones

Making predictions for a Ravens-Steelers game is often a fool’s errand.

We know it’s typically close — 17 of the last 23 meetings including the playoffs have been decided by a single possession — but something crazy usually happens in the process.

Safety Eric Weddle said this week these aren’t the same old Ravens and they’ve learned from the last two heartbreaking defeats at Heinz Field in which they held double-digit fourth-quarter leads, but this is the chance to prove it and make an early statement that 2018 will be different than the last three non-playoff seasons. Sunday night marks the fifth consecutive season the Ravens’ trip to Pittsburgh will be televised before a national audience.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the 45th time in the all-time regular-season series. Pittsburgh holds a 24-20 advantage and is 12-11 — including the playoffs — against Baltimore in the John Harbaugh era. The Steelers have won the last three meetings in this AFC North rivalry.

Below are five predictions for Sunday night:

1. JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the Steelers wide receiver giving the Ravens the biggest headache. It remains to be seen how defensive coordinator Wink Martindale approaches the challenge of covering Antonio Brown, but the 6-foot-1 Smith-Schuster does most of his damage from the slot, presenting a challenge for the 5-foot-9 Tavon Young. The nickel corner was exposed in Cincinnati in Week 2 and is still looking to regain his rookie form after last year’s knee injury. The Ravens will change up their coverages, but the defense needs a strong night from Young in order to get off the field.

2. John Brown and Willie Snead will each catch a touchdown against an injury-depleted Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh ranks 28th in the NFL in pass defense and is expected to be without starting safety Morgan Burnett and nickel corner Mike Hilton. It will be interesting to see how Steelers cornerback Joe Haden is used, but no one in the Pittsburgh secondary can run with the speedy Brown, who leads the Ravens with 222 receiving yards. If the protection can slow a capable Pittsburgh pass rush, Brown could be in line for a big night while Snead should find room in the middle of the field.

3. Pittsburgh tight ends and running backs will combine for 13 catches and a touchdown reception. Le’Veon Bell won’t be out there, but Steelers running backs and tight ends combined for 24 catches and two touchdown catches last December. The Ravens won’t have quite that much trouble, but C.J. Mosley will be less than 100 percent and the Steelers won’t hesitate to test Tony Jefferson and Weddle in coverage. Even with so much attention paid to Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster, running back James Conner and tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald can’t be ignored.

4. Terrell Suggs will collect his first full sack against the Steelers since 2013. The personal rivalry between Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger goes back to 2004, but the seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker has just one-half sack in his last eight games against Pittsburgh. The Steelers will be welcoming right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert back to the lineup, which will only increase the challenge of pressuring the pocket. The Ravens finished with three sacks in the last meeting when Roethlisberger threw an absurd 66 passes. That can’t happen again if they want to win.

5. Joe Flacco and the offense will show up, but the Ravens defense falls short in a 31-27 loss. A rivalry once known for low-scoring affairs saw a whopping 77 points scored in the Week 14 contest played at Heinz Field last year. This one will follow a similar script as the Ravens offense will move the ball and score points, but the absence of Jimmy Smith once again looms large. After incorrectly picking Baltimore to win in Pittsburgh last December and watching Andy Dalton carve up the secondary in the first half of the Week 2 loss at Cincinnati, I need to see the Ravens prove they can get over the hump this time around. If it’s a different outcome, special teams could be the difference as Justin Tucker remains the best kicker in the NFL and Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell is a total mess now.

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Ravens put out crowded injury report to start Pittsburgh week

Posted on 26 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to renew a rivalry long known for its brutal physicality, the Ravens are already dealing with a number of ailments ahead of Sunday’s trip to Pittsburgh.

Baltimore did welcome inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee), defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot), and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) back to the practice field on Wednesday, but six players did not participate in the workout for health-related reasons. The absentees included linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee), cornerbacks Brandon Carr (knee) and Anthony Averett (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), quarterback Lamar Jackson (illness), and defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery). Suggs, Carr, and Stanley finished Sunday’s game against Denver without any noticeable incident while Averett and Henry didn’t play against the Broncos.

Mosley’s return to practice was an encouraging sign for the Ravens defense after he sat out in Week 3, marking only the third missed game of his five-year career. Veteran Albert McClellan started in place of Mosley and shared inside linebacker snaps with weak-side starter Patrick Onwuasor and rookie Kenny Young. Mosley, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, described himself as “day by day” before Wednesday’s practice and is trying to avoid a setback with the bone bruise in his left knee.

“I was pretty close [to playing], but I didn’t want any uncertainty,” said Mosley about missing Sunday’s game. “That was really the main reason. And I felt comfortable with Kenny, Bert, and ‘Peanut’ out there without me. They practiced all week without me. I prepared like I was going to play if I did play. I was comfortable with that, but as far as my knee, I just didn’t feel comfortable.”

Hurst was practicing for the first time since having a screw inserted in his foot for a stress fracture on Aug. 24. It remains unclear how much practice time the first-round pick will need to be ready for live-game action again, but the Ravens are eager to have both Hurst and fellow rookie Mark Andrews on the field at the same time. Andrews, a third-round pick, has been a pleasant surprise with eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in the first three games.

The Steelers appear to be getting healthier as safety Morgan Burnett (groin), right guard David DeCastro (hand), and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) all practiced fully on Wednesday. Those three starters sat out Pittsburgh’s win at Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster sat out Wednesday’s practice with an abdomen injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), WR John Brown (non-injury), CB Brandon Carr (knee), DT Willie Henry (abdomen), QB Lamar Jackson (illness), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (knee), S Eric Weddle (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring), LB C.J. Mosley (knee), DT Michael Pierce (foot)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Ramon Foster (non-injury), CB Mike Hilton (elbow), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (abdomen)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Morgan Burnett (groin), G David DeCastro (hand), OT Marcus Gilbert (hamstring)

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