The (9-5) Pittsburgh Steelers will battle the (8-6) Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on Christmas night with a chance to clinch the AFC North division in addition to the No. 3 seed in the conference. Below are seven things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in order to come away with their tenth win of the season against a Ravens team that must win out in order to make the playoffs.
Have a Wright Christmas – With Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith sidelined this weekend, Shareece Wright will be forced to start in his place. Wright has struggled quite a bit this season as he’s allowed six touchdowns in 10 games in addition to an opposing passer rating of 120.0 when he’s in coverage. In short, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should be able to attack Wright throughout the game with relative ease and success.
Jingle Bell all the way – In the Steelers Week 9 loss to the Ravens, running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for just 32 yards on 14 carries. In this meeting, Bell will have fullback Roosevelt Nix on the field in addition to a fully healthy center in Maurkice Pouncey. While Bell is unlikely to have a big day on the ground against the Ravens defense, he should have several more successful runs this time around. 120 yards from scrimmage for Bell might be enough to win this time.
X-Mas Deliveries – While it’s likely that tight end Ladarius Green won’t play Sunday due to a concussion, the team has a light version of him in backup Xavier Grimble. Grimble played 42 snaps in the last game against the Ravens and finished with one catch for 10 yards. I think he might just have a bigger role in the passing game on Sunday and thus needs to make the most of the opportunities if that’s the case. An explosive play or two would be just fine and I think he’ll have some space to work with.
Leave Rookies for Santa Deebo – The last time the Steelers played the Ravens, Steelers linebacker James Harrison recorded two sacks, his first two of the season. Additionally, Harrison worked over rookie Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley pretty good in that game and the young offensive lineman was flagged four times during that contest with three of those being for holding. Harrison only played 38 defensive snaps in that game and that number will be much, much higher this time around. Expect Santa Deebo to deliver the goods on Christmas.
No free yardage for sleigh rides – The last time the Steelers played the Ravens they were penalized 14 times for 99 yards. Additionally, while the Steelers have averaged 7.1 penalties a game this season, that average is 8.3 in their last three games. They absolutely must control the penalties on Sunday at home if they’re going to win this game.
Keep the Ravens elf on the shelf – For the most part the Steelers defense did a fine job at covering Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. during the Week 9 game. While Smith did catch four passes for 47 yards in that game, one of his catches went for 30 thanks to a blown coverage and a missed tackle. In fact, Smith was held catchless during the second half of that game. Holding Smith under 50 yards once again should be the goal on Christmas day at Heinz Field as they can’t let that purple elf take over the game.
No Dennis the Menace Christmas – Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta leads Baltimore in total receptions with 67 for 563. If that’s not enough 21 of those receptions and 200 of his receiving yards have come on third downs. The Steelers defense did a number on Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert last Sunday as they held him to one catch for 9 yards. If safety Sean Davis and others can limit the damage Pitta does Sunday at Heinz Field, the Steelers should win. Pitta had two receptions for 14 yards back in Week 9 and the Ravens offense only scored 15 points.