Every week, Steel City Underground will preview the Pittsburgh Steelers' AFC North rivals and the opponents those division challengers will go head-to-head against in our 'Rival Report'.
Baltimore on the road in Kansas City
On Sunday there is expected to be an epic showdown at Arrowhead Stadium between what many are saying is the "hottest quarterback" in the NFL this season versus 2018's NFL MVP. Lamar Jackson, the Ravens' young quarterback has put together two weeks of nearly-perfect play but he'll be squaring off against Patrick Mahomes who has been outstanding during that time period as well. While Jackson holds the highest quarterback rating in the league heading into Week 3 at 145.2, Mahomes is listed as the third-best with a rating of 136.3. They're both tied with seven touchdown passes. However, Mahomes owns the current top spot for signal-callers with 14 passes of 20 yards or more (Jackson has 12). They're currently as close as it can get when it comes to identifying them as young gunslingers in 2019.
“It’s Ravens versus Chiefs. I don’t really look at it like I’m competing against [Patrick Mahomes].” - L. Jackson
“Seeing his progression with the understanding of the offense, I understand," Mahomes said. "Going from year one to year two, there’s a huge switch where you start understanding the offense at a different level," Mahomes said of Jackson. "He's always had the talent, but it's about learning the offense and he's done that now."
"He's on his way. [The Chiefs] have Super Bowls," Jackson said when asked about Mahomes. "He's a dynamic quarterback. It's his third year and he's been doing a tremendous job."
This game, however, isn't likely to be decided by Jackson or Mahomes but by how their respective teams' defenses play against each other. Who shuts who down?
The Ravens defense, high across the league in the power rankings, has its hands full. Particularly in its defensive secondary. Baltimore will not only be forced to shut down Mahomes and keep him in the pocket, but they have to find a way to cover Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, and one of the league's top tight ends in Travis Kelce. After some miscues in the secondary against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, the Ravens know that a lapse this week could very well cost them the game.
"It's a big challenge for us in the back end... on the road against a playoff-caliber team," Baltimore cornerback Brandon Carr said this week. "We're excited to see what we're made of."
Without Jimmy Smith (knee) and Tavon Young (neck), the Ravens will count on Carr to be a leader with Marlon Humphrey, Earl Thomas III, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Averett, Anthony Levine Sr. and DeShon Elliott.
Game Info: Sun 09/22 · 1:00 PM EDT (Arrowhead Stadium)
- TV: CBS
- Radio: 98 ROCK • WBAL 1090 AM • 101.5 FM
Bengals travel to Buffalo
After back-to-back losses in as many weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals will face the Buffalo Bills looking for a win on the road. After a very close game in Seattle against the Seahawks, the Bengals defense was unable to shut down the San Francisco 49ers, allowing 572 total yards (259 on the ground). Their inability to put consistent pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo, or log a single sack, allowed the Niners to keep putting points on the scoreboard.
"[The Bills] do a good job attacking defenses... when our guys are in position to make plays they need to make them." - Bengals head coach Zac Taylor
"It comes back to doing our job. We’ve got guys in position to make plays. At the end of the day when we’re there and have a chance to make a play, we have to make it," Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo nearly echoed this week. "We've got to move on and go get the Bills. That's what's important."
The Bengals haven't been outstanding, but there are some good things coming out of their roster and play. Quarterback Andy Dalton enters Week 3 ranked second in the league in passing yards (729) and first in completions (61) while Tyler Boyd is tied for second in the NFL with 18 receptions. John Ross III, who has gotten off to a hot start this season, leads all NFL receivers entering the week with three receiving touchdowns and six receptions of at least 20 yards.
The offensive line has been an area of concern but the Bengals are hoping the signing of guard Keaton Sutherland from the practice squad will give them a boost up front. They signed offensive tackle Dino Boyd to the practice squad.
This is a critical week for Cincinnati. Historically, teams that start 0-2 only make it to the playoffs 10.3 percent of the time. The Bengals are hoping they can hand the Bills their first loss of the season after Buffalo beat the New York Jets and New York Giants to open their season.
Game Info: Sun 09/22 · 1:00 PM EDT (New Era Field)
- TV: CBS
- Radio: 700WLW • ESPN 1530 • 102.7 WEBN
Browns host the Los Angeles Rams
From an injury standpoint, Cleveland has some issues as they head into their Week 3 matchup with the Rams at home after a tough game on Monday Night Football. Tight end, David Njoku, took a nasty hit that up-ended him in the first quarter of the game against the New York Jets. He has a wrist injury and a concussion. Veteran Demetrius Harris took over following Njoku's injury and shared time with Pharaoh Brown and Ricky Seals-Jones. Right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (ankle), linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), safety Damarious Randall (concussion), linebacker Adarius Taylor (ankle), and safety Morgan Burnett (quadriceps) were all absent from Wednesday's practice and will be monitored before Sunday night's game.
"We are still kind of playing it by ear. We will see how those [players] progress during the course of the week." - Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens
The Browns would like to get back on track after being inconsistent on offense despite a 23-3 win over the Jets. Baker Mayfield said it starts with him. He finished Monday night's game with 19-of-35 passes completed for 325 yards, but there were a lot of opportunities left on the field. Against the defending NFC champion Rams, the Browns can't afford to not take advantage of every opportunity, especially against a Los Angeles defense that is led by Aaron Donald.
"I have to do my job when it all comes down to it," Mayfield said this week. "I think it falls back on me just playing better, getting the ball out and getting completions..."
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. called the Rams a "star-studded team" when he was asked about this weekend's matchup. "(Corner Marcus) Peters, (Aqib) Talib, safety Eric Weddle... Aaron Donald, Clay Matthews... They are a great team, a great defense," Beckham said. "We have to go out and play our game, find the matchups where we can and just find a way to win."
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, one of their brightest spots on defense, talked about the play that injured Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian on Monday night and what he needs to do moving forward to still be effective. "You want to play aggressive, you want to play passionate and you just want to finish the play," Garrett told the media. "I am going to keep on playing with the same aggression. I just have to be smarter, better with my strike zone and try to pull off so I do not land with all my weight."
Garrett said that the main point officials spoke to him about was that they penalized him for the way he tackled Siemian, that they felt he scooped the quarterback high before taking him to the turf. Garrett didn't agree with their assessment after rewatching the play, but said, "I am not trying to injure anybody... [football] is not something that you do not do unless you love it, and you do not want to take that away from anybody. I hope he comes back faster and stronger than he ever has. I wish the best for [Siemian]."
Game Info: Sun 09/22 · 8:20 PM EDT (FirstEnergy Stadium)
- TV: NBC
- Radio: ESPN 850 • 92.3 The Fan • 98.5 WNCX