Steelers Playoff Picture: Ravens Ngata Suspended For Rest Of Season
The Pittsburgh Steelers are making their final push for making the playoffs and avoid a three season skid on the matter. The AFC North Division is bottlenecked with the standings very tight. The Steelers rival Ravens received some news on Thursday that could negatively impact their playoff hopes and bolster the Steelers.
The NFL announced on Thursday that Ravens DE Haloti Ngata has been suspended four games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Details have yet to surface about the specifics of what Ngata was doing/what he was taking to garner the penalty. But, there is one thing for certain, and that is his absence on the Ravens defensive front will hurt the Ravens defense.
Sitting at 7-5 and 2nd in the division, the Ravens defense has had its struggles throughout the season. The secondary is one of the worst in the league after suffering injuries early in the season. But, the rushing defense is one of the best in the league only allowing an average of 86 yards per game – good enough for 4th in the league. The 340 lbs. Ngata is a big part of that run stuffing D. His tackles are somewhat down this season, but he is still getting double teamed by offensive lines, leaving other defenders to find the gaps and bring down the ball carrier quickly. Something new for Ngata is that he’s been able to make himself more effective at swatting down balls at the line of scrimmage. He’s defended seven passes and has two interceptions on the year – something he’s never done.
Timmy Jernigan sits behind Ngata on the depth chart, but he is nowhere nearly as big weighing in at only 300 lbs. The Ravens have the ‘easiest’ schedule among the other AFC North teams. They take on the Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans, and Browns. But, without Ngata being a consistent presence on that defensive front, the Ravens could struggle in the run defense and add to their woes in keeping games close enough for their mid-ranked offense.
If the Ravens allow a few games to slip through their fingers, it will certainly help the Steelers in their pursuit of the AFC North, which seems the more likely way the Steelers will need to make the playoffs since so many other teams are also sitting at 7-5 and looking at the two available Wild Card spots.