It feels like it’s been quite a while since last we had a game to talk about, but at last—at least for now—we are finally here once again, on game day. And still uncertain as to exactly whom we will be playing. The Baltimore Ravens will be without many starters, sidelined for the game as a result of the Covid-19 protocols, though the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without three players as well, including two starters.
Pittsburgh did win the last meeting, but the biggest element of the last game was the Ravens’ ability to run the ball, despite losing two offensive linemen over the course of the game. Ronnie Stanley is not coming back, but Tyre Phillips was recently activated from the Reserve/Injured List, and presumably play.
They will, however, be down to their third center, a rookie college free agent who hasn’t played a snap in the NFL before. And we’re still not certain who will be in the backfield aside from Gus Edwards, who alone has had success against the Steelers on the ground before, and Justice Hill. J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram are technically eligible to be activated today, but it’s not a certainty that they can play.
Other changes for this game—no Lamar Jackson, who stirs their drink as far as the running game goes. No Nick Boyle, one of the top run-blocking tight ends in the NFL. He’s out for the season with an injury. No fullback, with Patrick Ricard having confirmed that he tested for Covid-19. No Mark Andrews, either, a great receiving tight end. But will they have Luke Willson, a veteran blocking tight end, from the practice squad? He is questionable to play with an illness.
The Ravens’ mechanisms for running the ball have changed for the worse, it’s fair to say, since their last meeting. The Steelers, however, should be in a net better place, even with Stephon Tuitt unavailable. Tyson Alualu is back, and so is Mike Hilton, arguably their two best run defenders, and they were clearly missed.
Of course, what we have to remember is that, even though Robert Griffin III will be at quarterback, and, possibly, they’ll only have Edwards at running back, this is the same running combination that rushed for over 200 yards against this defense in the season finale last year.
In fact, Edwards rushed for 130 yards on 21 carries, Griffin adding 50 on eight carries. And then-rookie Justice Hill chipped in another 39 yards on 10 carries. So we’re dealing with possibly the exact same group who put up over 200 yards a little under a year ago, even if Dobbins and Ingram don’t play.
And the Steelers, minus Tuitt of course, were healthy. They had all their starters. This Ravens team just ran over them. It was actually pretty embarrassing. Both of those games were on the road. Even without fans today, I don’t think the Ravens will be as comfortable this time around.