Wednesday Afternoon Football
The Pittsburgh Steelers play host to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North matchup that has been thrice-moved. The game will kick at 3:40 ET because NBC has the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony that evening.
Date & Time: PND Wednesday, 3:40 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Listen: NFL Game Pass, Westwood One, Sirius XM
Online Betting: BetUs
The Ravens were planning to fly to Pittsburgh on Thursday to provide our holiday football-experience with a sweet ending. The NFL postponed the game on Wednesday, Nov. 25, after three additional Ravens’ players tested positive for COVID-19 bringing their weekly total to seven with five additional staffers.
Ravens decline to name the staff member responsible for outbreak; some players see that as a double standard https://t.co/spKIKF97rL
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 26, 2020
“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a statement.
The news of the game being postponed not only made Thanksgiving a little less exciting — it also stirred up some Pittsburgh Steelers’ players. Steeler WR JuJu Smith-Schuster tweeted his frustration just minutes after the announcement. This is the second time this season that the Steelers had to deal with schedule changes due to an opposing team dealing with a COVID breakout.
First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason. Smh.
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) November 25, 2020
The Ravens will most likely miss the entire week of practice because their organization has shut down the facilities due to the NFL’s protocols.
NFL’s Best-Rivalry with Added Incentives
Let’s start off with a quote from Baltimore’s head-coach John Harbaugh. “They’re a physical defense – they’re going to fly around,” he said. “Obviously, this is a rivalry game, so these games are never going to be easy – it’s going to be a bloodbath until the end. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Nothing new for the players and coaches that have been involved in this rivalry over the years. Historically, when the Steelers and Ravens collide there are plenty of big-hits and trash talking to add to some of the NFL’s best football.
The 2020 rematch brings with it many added incentives and urgency.
Pittsburgh’s Undefeated Season on the Line
The undefeated Steelers are looking at completing a perfect 16-0 season for the second time in NFL history (2007 Patriots). The Ravens are viewed as the toughest game on the Steelers’ remaining schedule. A Steelers’ sweep of the series with the Ravens would not only greatly increase the Steelers’ odds of staying undefeated — it would provide one of the defining outcomes for the entire 2020 NFL season.
With a win — Pittsburgh could be the first team to clinch a playoff spot and would still be a game ahead of the Chiefs for the AFC’s-coveted No. 1 seed (the only seed that receives a bye in this years’ new seven-team playoff format).
Baltimore’s Season on the Line
“There’s definitely an urgency, ” said tight end Mark Andrews for the (6-4) Ravens — who have lost three out of their last four games. Baltimore needs a win over Pittsburgh to stay in the wild-card hunt in the crowded AFC. The Ravens enter Thursday’s game as one of nine teams with six wins or more in the AFC. A loss could prove to be catastrophic for the Ravens chances to make the playoffs this year.
When looking at this game earlier in the season, most analysts thought this would be the game to decide the AFC North. In a way it is, but with the division title practically out of reach for the Ravens it is more about staying alive and taking down the AFC’s top dog while they do it.
Previous Matchup – Week 8: Steelers 28, Ravens 24
The Ravens inability to take care of the ball, or the Steelers’ ability to take it away was the key difference when these two teams played in Week 8.
Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson committed four turnovers and one was returned for a Steelers’ defensive-touchdown. The Ravens outgained the Steelers 457-221 in total yards and dominated the time of possession for 35:22. Jackson was 13-28 for 208 passing-yards and two TD’s but he threw two INTs and finished with a passer rating of 65.8.
The Steelers’ defense ranks at the top of the NFL in many categories – a few are interceptions (16), takeaways (21), Sacks (38) and opposing QBR (71.0). The Steeler relentless pressure on Jackson in Week 8 proved too much for the 2019 MVP as the Steelers disrupted him all day – finishing with four sacks.
The Steelers are the NFL’s-top pass-defense this year, but they are susceptible to the run. Baltimore gashed the Steelers in their first matchup for 265 rushing yards on 47 attempts — 5.7 yard/attempt average. The Ravens will be without their Week 8 lead rusher due to COVID — J.K Dobbins who ran for 115 yards on 15 attempts.
Pittsburgh made the plays at the end of the game to seal the victory. With a four point lead and the ball on their own eight yard, the Steelers clinched the game by stopping the Ravens from converting a fourth-and-three with less than 2:00 minutes left in the game.
(10-0) Steelers vs (6-4) Ravens — Three Keys to the Game
The Ravens Rushing Attack
If the Ravens struggle to get the ball moving on the ground they will be in for a long day. RB Gus Edwards will be taking over the lead back role since two Baltimore running-backs will miss the game. The third-year undrafted running back has the talent and is more than capable of having a big day against the Steelers. The 6’1” 238 lb RB could benefit from not having to split work by finding his groove.
If Edwards struggles to find any openings then Robert Griffin III is going to have to be Superman to beat the Steelers defense. The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2012) will have to be successful through the air and gain chunk-yardage on the ground. If the Steelers can hold the Ravens under four yards a carry and force Griffin to throw from the pocket, then Pittsburgh will be in the driver’s seat for this game.
It is simple — If Jackson would have committed fewer turnovers in the Steelers/Ravens Week 8 matchup then the Ravens would have most-likely won. The quarterback will need to be poised in the pocket and limit his mistakes to beat the undefeated Steelers. The Ravens have a much higher chance to win if they can limit their turnovers and force some of their own.
The Raven’s defense is No. 1 in the NFL in fumble recoveries with 10, but they rank near the bottom of the league with only five INTs. The Steelers need to make sure they also take care of the ball and not give the Ravens offense extra opportunities. QB Ben Rothlisberger did not commit a single turnover in their first matchup — Steelers’ wide-receiver Chase Claypool lost one fumble.
The Ravens’ Ability to Overcome Adversity
The (6-4) Ravens have lost three out of the last four and are in danger of losing their third straight game (first time since Jackson took over at QB). Baltimore will be without a few of their key contributors and without a single practice to prepare for the Steelers. How well this team can come together and overcome adversity will help determine the outcome of their rematch with the Steelers.
With their backs against the wall, the Ravens could use this opportunity to jell and come together as a team — and come out fighting like hell to survive. Or, they could crumble under the pressure and be left picking up the pieces of their season.
The Steelers have a number of players on the injury report but most of the key players are expected to play. CB Joe Haden’s status remains uncertain with a knee injury.
(10-0) Steelers vs (6-4) Ravens – Analysis and Pick
Going to Heinz Field to take on an undefeated Pittsburgh team in late November is not what any team in the NFL wants to be doing right now. Baltimore not only has to figure out how to beat the top team in the NFL, but they also have to do it without many of their players and no practice time.
The best thing about a good rivalry is that no matter what else has happened that season — the games are always up-for-grabs. So, if any team is up to the challenge of taking down the Steelers without any practice, it is John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh has 13 wins to Tomlins 12 in their head-to-head matchups.
It will take a superb performance from Robert Griffin III for the Ravens to get out of Pittsburgh with a win. No one knows if Griffin III is capable of putting this team on his back. He has not shown the ability to do so in many years. The Steelers’ defense will ultimately be once-again too much to overcome for another opposing QB and Baltimore will fall short.
The biggest difference between these two teams is the wide-receiver groups. The lack of weapons on the outside is a big part of the Ravens offensive struggles this year. The Steelers on the other hand, have one of the most talented WR groups in the NFL. They allow Ben Rothlisberger to get the ball out of his hands early and to take deep shots to big-time playmakers.
Steelers’ wide-receivers — Johnson, Smith-Schuster, Claypool and the boys — are a problem for any defense. A team must be able to consistently beat the Steelers’ on the outside to keep them from blitzing them to death. The fact of the matter is — the Ravens lack the weapons to beat the Steelers this year.
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) November 26, 2020