Weekly Bold Prediction: Steelers hold Ravens to fewest rushing yards of the season

This Thursday’s prediction was difficult to come up with. Among the storylines I started thinking about was Ben Roethlisberger topping 350 passing yards and four touchdowns, or the Steelers running game getting it done against Baltimore.

Despite the Ravens giving up 173 rushing yards in each of their last two games, I just feel as if that’s not the Steelers M.O. this season – and even getting 100 yards could still prove to be a challenge on a short week’s rest against a Baltimore defense that held Pittsburgh to only 48 yards in their first encounter.

The Ravens also have a respectable secondary, so leaning on the Steelers offense in either direction proves to be difficult when making an educated guess about a rivalry that generally doesn’t see each team put up a lot of points.

That’s why I’m leaning on the Ravens running game being the weakest link – because on paper, it literally is.

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Baltimore is dealing with injuries and COVID-19 concerns all along their hallmark running attack, which has stalled and been called out in weeks, including Ravens QB Lamar Jackson quoting that opposing defenses are calling out plays at the line of scrimmage.

The Ravens will be without their top two running backs, as Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins both tested positive for COVID-19 and are ruled out for Thanksgiving night. That leaves Gus Edwards, a former starter himself, as one of the few backs still available (along with second-year pro Justice Hill). While Edwards and Hill are still capable, they are not the same one-two punch as Ingram and Dobbins, and could leave Lamar Jackson just as susceptible running the ball too.

I’m aware that Edwards ran for 130 yards against the Steelers in the final game of last season, but for those who are paying attention, this isn’t the same Steelers team as in 2019.

Despite losing LB Devin Bush, the Steelers have multiple run stuffers to replace him. Robert Spillane and Vince Williams are each better against the run – the Steelers traded for the Jets’ Avery Williamson a few weeks ago and he has been slowly integrated into the defense over the last two weeks. He’s also a thumper known for stuffing ball carriers and also a sure tackler.

In that aspect, the Steelers could deploy multiple safeties and/or linebackers against the Ravens as they have in the past. A five-linebacker look isn’t out of the norm and they will continue to dedicate a body to Lamar Jackson.

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The Ravens offensive line continues to be a challenge for their team, as previous starting center Matt Skura struggled and was benched – he even apologized to fans on social media about his shortcomings. In his place the team started Patrick Mekari, who had previous starting experience with the team last season.

Mekari was playing at right guard, and then shifted to right tackle as well before the move to center. Ben Powers, a 2019 fourth-round pick, got the nod at right guard for his first career start last week. Will Holden, a practice squad elevation, split time with D.J. Fluker at right tackle in Mekari’s place.

Most importantly, all of these moves were necessitated by the season-ending injury to Ronnie Stanley.

While the Titans could only get to the Jackson for one sack last week, they are far from a team that can pressure a quarterback – an elusive one at that. But the Ravens aren’t known as a passing threat either, which bodes well for the Steelers heavy pressure.

I’m of the firm belief, and that’s why I’m making this prediction, that the Steelers can clamp down on the Ravens running game and hold them to their fewest yards of the season.

With a banged-up offensive line and traveling for a game on a short week, as well as losing two of their top running backs, we could see Pittsburgh stuff the Ravens for fewer than 110 yards.

Yes, I do realize that the Ravens had their team season-high in rushing yards against the Steelers in Week 8, running for a total of 265 yards. However, prior to that game, the Steelers run defense had stopped all others in their tracks, including “King” Derrick Henry.

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The Ravens are no longer the same offense as they were on November 1st – the Colts contained them to 110 yards, the Patriots to 115, and the Titans, in OT, to 129. That means there’s film to watch and obvious spots that the Steelers will fix come Thursday so that they don’t give up chunks of yards again.

That’s why the bold prediction is that the Steelers will go to 11-0 by playing a clock-controlling style which will limit the Ravens touches and hold them to fewer to 110 rushing yards.

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