The Ravens limp into Pittsburgh with a 2-2 record. After an electric 2-0 start, the Ravens were shredded by the Chiefs and Browns en route to back-to-back losses.
The Steelers are 1-3, but they are coming off a clinical performance against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
The Ravens and Steelers split the season series in 2018 with both matchups featuring Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger. With neither quarterback around to influence Sunday’s game, 2018’s games will likely not correlate to Sunday’s showdown.
Both teams now start 2018 draft picks in Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph. Jackson has been electric in 2019, and he is currently tied with Patrick Mahomes for most passing touchdowns in the NFL. Rudolph has had a cooler start, but he is the NFL’s leader in touchdown percentage and has played reasonably well in his two starts. Jackson has a clear advantage, but Rudolph should keep the Steelers in the game.
Mark Ingram has a legit argument for being a top-five back in football to this point in the season. Ingram has rumbled for a league-leading five touchdowns and he is seventh in rushing yards, averaging a robust 6.0 yards per carry. Gus Edwards has gobbled up yards for Baltimore in a slightly smaller role than Ingram, but he is an effective No. 2 back for the Ravens. For the Steelers, James Conner has been disappointing, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Conner is nursing an ankle injury, so Jaylen Samuels may have a larger role on Sunday. Samuels has been kept under wraps this season, but he translated his only sizeable workload (21 touches) in 2018 into 172 yards from scrimmage. The advantage goes to Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and the Ravens.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is the clear-cut favorite for this category. As promising as Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown have been, neither has the pedigree of Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster is on pace for his second career 1,000-yard campaign, and he will pose significant problems for the Ravens’ secondary. Beyond Smith-Schuster, however, the dropoff is steep. The Ravens offer tight ends Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst while sporting Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and Miles Boykin at wideout. The Ravens have more competent pass catchers, but the Steelers have the single best player across the teams. Advantage: Steelers.
In the trenches
The mighty offensive line of Pittsburgh’s past has fallen into disrepair, but the unit is still fine as a whole. The Baltimore O-line has offered a mixed bag this season, but it is a fairly sturdy unit. Neither team has a distinct advantage on the offensive side. Defensively, the difference-maker is Brandon Williams. If Williams is healthy, the Ravens secure a narrow advantage, but he has been nursing an injury over the last few weeks. Without Williams, the Steelers take the advantage.
The Steelers have played well at the back end of their defense despite not being widely heralded coming into the season. Rookie Devin Bush has played very well in the middle of the defense. For the Ravens, the linebackers and secondary (except for Marlon Humphrey) have been poor. The Ravens have been repeatedly gashed with big plays throughout the season. The tackling and execution have been among the worst in the NFL. The Ravens have the clear advantage due to talent, but the Steelers have been playing much better.
As with any divisional matchup, talent can sometimes be disregarded. The Ravens have far more talent than the Steelers do, but it is unlikely that either team wins in a blowout. I anticipate a close win for Baltimore off a Justin Tucker field goal or game-sealing touchdown by Lamar Jackson in the final minutes.
Score: Ravens 27, Steelers 21
Spread pick: BAL -3.5
Over/Under: OVER 44.5