Following a dominating victory on Monday Night Football over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers look to keep things rolling this week. While Monday's win was great, they will be facing a much better opponent this week. The Baltimore Ravens started off hot but have lost their last two and will be looking to get back on track. This rivalry game will have a big impact on the outlook on the AFC North. With that in mind, let's take a look at this week's opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens took some big losses to injuries at the beginning of the season with running backs Alex Collins (Leg) and Kenneth Dixon (knee), along with cornerback Tavon Young (neck) out for the season. They have also been hit with some new injuries that will effect this week's game. On defense, linebacker Otaro Alaka (hamstring) and defensive back Brynden Trawick (elbow) were placed on the injured reserve list. Cornerback Jimmy Smith will also be out with a knee injury. Defensive lineman Brandon Williams was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable.
On offense, center Matt Skura did not practice on Thursday due to a knee injury and is listed as questionable. Tight end Mark Andrews is also listed as questionable with a foot injury and was limited in practice on Thursday.
Baltimore's Offense Has Been Dangerous This Season
While they have usually been known for having a tough defensive football team, the Baltimore Ravens have dominated on the offensive side of the ball this season. They rank first in the league in total offense, averaging 482.5 yards per game along with 33.8 points per game.
The Ravens have been led by their outstanding rushing attack. They are first in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 205.8 yards per game on the ground. Running back Mark Ingram has had a breakout season in his first season in Baltimore. He currently ranks seventh in the league in rushing with 328 yards and five touchdowns so far.
Baltimore also has the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL in Lamar Jackson. Jackson is 16th in the NFL among all players in rushing with 238 rushing yards and a touchdown.
While their run game has been impressive, their passing game has made a huge improvement this season. They rank sixth in the league in passing offense with 276.8 yards per game through the air. Jackson has shown this season that he is not only a runner, ranking eleventh in the NFL in passing, throwing for 1,110 yards, ten touchdowns, and only two interceptions so far. His leading receiver has been rookie Marquise Brown, who ranks 22nd the league in receiving. Brown has hauled in 18 receptions for 304 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Ravens Secondary Must Step Up This Week
While Baltimore has improved on the offensive side of the ball, their defense has taken a step back. They currently rank 27th in the league in total defense, allowing 395.5 yards per game and 25 points per game.
These poor numbers are mainly due to them struggling to defend against the pass. The Ravens rank 30th in the league in passing defense, allowing 302 yards per game through the air. This is somewhat shocking as they have an outstanding duo at safety with Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson. However, they have been hurting at the cornerback position. They took a huge hit losing Tavon Young and the beginning of the season and will also be without Jimmy Smith this week. In their absence, it looks like either Marlon Humphrey or Brandon Carr will start at the left corner with Anthony Averett starting at the right.
Although they have struggled against the pass, Baltimore has been solid against the run. They rank ninth in the league in run defense, allowing 93.5 yards per game on the ground. Middle linebacker Patrick Onwuasor has led the team in tackles so far with 18. He is joined in the linebacker core by Matthew Judon and Kenny Young. Tyus Bowser will also play a key role in the linebacker rotation. In front of them, the defensive line of the Ravens will consist of Brandon Williams at defensive tackle (if healthy), along with Michael Pierce at nose tackle, Chris Wormley at defensive end, and Pernell McPhee as the edge rusher. If Williams can't play, Patrick Ricard will take his place at defensive tackle. Rookie Jaylon Ferguson should see some time rotating in at the edge rusher.
As usual in this rivalry game, I believe this will be a very hard-fought, physical match up. I strongly believe that this game will come down to the very end of the fourth. I think Lamar Jackson will make big plays throughout the game to keep Baltimore in it. However, I think this Steelers defense will step up down the stretch when it matters to make some key plays. I also see them opening up the playbook for Mason Rudolph. I believe Rudolph will throw between 250-300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I also believe Juju Smith-Schuster will finally have a big game against a struggling Ravens secondary. I've got the Steelers winning by a late Chris Boswell field goal 27-24.