Steelers vs Ravens: 3 Key matchups to watch in Week 17

T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers head into Week 17 with something to play for. Things have gone pretty well for the black and gold, all things considered. Injuries have depleted the roster, especially on offense, but the team heads into the final game of the season still eligible for the playoffs.

The road to get there has been bumpy, and frustrating losses to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets saw the Steelers surrender their hold on the sixth seed in the AFC, but the playoff dream can still be kept alive by a win Sunday and a Tennessee Titans loss to the Houston Texans.

Sunday’s opponent is the AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens in their stadium. Before the lump in your throat gets too big, consider that the Ravens have nothing to play for in this game, and several key starters will be rested. From Ravens Wire:

"Coach John Harbaugh said quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram, guard Marshal Yanda, safety Earl Thomas and defensive tackle Brandon William’s will be among those sitting."

Cornerback Marcus Peters, acquired mid-season in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, is also questionable with a chest injury. For the Steelers, running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey will miss Sunday’s game.

Here are three key matchups that will define Sunday’s game.

The Steelers vs. the Ravens

At first glance, this probably sounds like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, the absolute peak of letting anyone with a computer call themselves a sportswriter. This guy just spent an entire intro talking about Sunday’s Steelers-Ravens game, and now he’s telling me that the two teams playing will be one of the game’s key matchups. Where does Still Curtain find these people?

The point is that the Ravens are still locked in and keyed up for a rivalry game.

"Anyone who has the audacity to suggest that Baltimore won’t be 100 percent locked in must answer to 345-pound defensive tackle Michael Pierce.“It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re fighting for a shot in the playoffs, so never,” Pierce said, quite emphatically. “We have history with those guys, so no. If anybody tells you otherwise, we should have a talk.”"

With the Ravens at 13-2, already division champions, and the injury-hobbled Steelers looking to limp into the playoffs at 9-7, Sunday should be a far cry from the legendary Steelers-Ravens matchups of previous years, but don’t doubt that both sides will be fired up with playoff stakes and simple pride on the line.

B.J. Finney vs. the Ravens’ Front Seven

The Steelers have lost Maurkice Pouncey to injury again, so center B.J. Finney will make his fourth start of 2019 against Baltimore.

An offensive line is a unit, not just a simple collection of players, and any jolt to the established system comes with some possibility for adjustment pains.

That said, defensive linemen, Chris Wormley and Brandon Williams are out for the Ravens, and the Steelers are 3-0 in gamers Finney has started. Finney started the wins against the Colts, Bengals (Week 12), and Browns

The Defense vs. RGIII

The Steelers’ defense has been the star of the season so far, with T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick shining especially bright.

The Ravens have a shining star of their own on offense, which would make for a mouth-watering matchup. Lamar Jackson has thrown for 3,127 yards this season, good for 36 touchdowns to only six interceptions and a completion percentage of 66.1. On the ground, he’s added 1,206 yards on 176 rushes, tallying seven touchdowns. Lamar Jackson also isn’t playing this Sunday.

Backup quarterback Robert Griffin III reprises his previous role in Washington, filling in as “NFL starting quarterback” for a week. Griffin has played in six games for the Ravens this year, completing 12 passes on 17 attempts for 129 yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers’ defense shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping Griffin in check, and with Ingram also out, they shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping points off the board.

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It’s up to the offense, then, to avoid a repeat of previous weeks’ frustrating efforts against the Bills and Jets, where offensive stalling prevented the Steelers from winning very winnable games.