The 5: Steelers to watch in Week 18 versus the Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) travel for their final game of the 2023-24 regular season to face the Baltimore Ravens (13-3) at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, January 6th.

While the Ravens have locked the top seed in the AFC, along with a bye, and will be resting some of their starters, the Steelers find themselves in a situation where they not only have to win, but also need help.

Ahead of this game, we look at five Pittsburgh Steelers players to watch in the match with the Ravens… and a lot of them look familiar to last week’s game!

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Mason Rudolph

It took 45 games and the firing of Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada for the offense to eclipse over 400 yards back on November 26th against the Bengals. Kenny Pickett was the quarterback for that game, but the team failed to match those numbers until the last two outings, both led by Mason Rudolph.

Going 35 for 51 (68.6%) for 564 yards and two touchdowns (no interceptions) over his last two starts, the Steelers have exploded for 865 yards of offense. That’s 68 yards more than against the Cardinals, Patriots and Colts combined.

The resurgence has led to 34 and 30 points, with all eyes now on Rudolph as the potential savior of the season… and perhaps beyond.

Saturday will be a huge test against an AFC North rival that, despite resting starters, is never known to lay down for an opponent. The hostile environment in Baltimore will also be frothing at the mouth to eliminate Pittsburgh from playoff contention.

Can Mason lead the team past the Ravens? Can they keep pouring on offense or will it be another low-scoring affair as these two teams are used to?

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Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren

NFL Network’s Good Morning Football has a weekly segment hosted by Kyle Brandt called Angry Runs, where Brandt issues a scepter award to the “angriest” run of the week.

This week, Brandt had both Steelers running backs in contention as finalists with Harris ultimately winning – and instead of being in the photo, he had everyone who blocked for him instead!

Harris is now 67 yards from achieving a 1,000-yard season for a third-straight time. He has 43 fewer carries this season, thus far, than last and 78 fewer than his rookie season, due to splitting carries with his counterpart Warren, who trails with 751 yards on the season.

Both backs, however, have cleared 1,000 all-purpose yards (rushing and receiving) and form a dual-threat that will have to find success against a Baltimore defense that only gives up 106 yards-per-game, but has given up some larger totals including 154 last week to the Miami Dolphins.

If the Rudolph is on point, the run game should face less opposition at the line of scrimmage with an opportunity for Harris to reach the century mark.

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T.J. Watt

Tied for the league-lead in sack with 17.0, Watt finds himself in a similar position to two seasons ago where he was looking to not only lead the league in this metric, but also break the all-time single season record (with Baltimore playing a backup quarterback in that game too!)

If Watt can hold onto the lead after this game, he will be the only player in NFL history to lead the league in sacks in three different seasons – and he will have done it in three of the last four seasons as well!

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Returning Injured Player(s)

We need five players to watch for this article, but it’s unknown at this time if we’ll have at least two of them I’d like to keep an eye on!

The Steelers have been without Minkah Fitzpatrick for six games this season, with the Pro Bowl safety missing the last two. Equally, the inside linebackers group has been a skeleton crew and could benefit from the return of Elandon Roberts.

Both players did not practice earlier this week but were limited on Wednesday. Keep an eye on both, as each is an impact player and each could be a game time decision to play on Saturday.

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