Today is the final game of the regular season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and probably the final game of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career. They could still be playing next week in the Wildcard round, but they will need help that they’re unlikely to get; namely, they need the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts (and for the Chargers and Raiders to not tie, which is much more likely if the Jaguars do beat the Colts).
So what is the focus for the day? As you might have guessed, it’s the passing game, and the pass rush. If this is the last game Ben Roethlisberger ever plays, he’s probably going to want to be slinging it all over the field, and frankly, guys like Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool could really stand to exit the 2021 season on a positive note.
On the other side of the ball, all eyes will be on outside linebacker T.J. Watt, of course, as he chases NFL history. Entering this season telling reporters that he’s ‘built for’ being the man who’s looked upon to be the superstar, he’s had his best season, arguably, with 21.5 sacks, needing one more sack to tie the all-time single-season NFL sack record. Anything more than that, of course, would break it, so lots of cameras will be on him every time he rushes the passer.
But there’s going to be more to the game than that, and really, it should be the running game that is most important. Rookie Najee Harris rushed for 188 yards on 28 carries last week, in the first game with Chris Morgan acting as head offensive line coach. This group is going to want to build off of that.
I imagine J.C. Hassenauer will start at center again even with Kendrick Green being activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 List, if only because of the missed practice time. What we see at left tackle is up in the air, with Dan Moore Jr. Doubtful. Will Joe Haeg play there? Will they move Chukwuma Okorafor to the left and play Zach Banner or Haeg on the right side? And damn, it sure sucks to not get Kevin Dotson back before the end of the year. He’s only played nine games this season.
As far as the Ravens go, we’re looking at Tyler Huntley at quarterback, who has looked solid at times when playing as Lamar Jackson’s backup. He said this past week that he was still feeling the aftereffects of his about with COVID-19 when he started the team’s previous game, so it will be interesting to see how he looks today.
Chances are special teams is going to be big in this game, and not just because these are two offenses that will have a hard time in the red zone, putting much on the shoulders of Pro Bowl kickers Justin Tucker and Chris Boswell.
Both the Ravens and Steelers have at least solid return men, even if Steelers fans don’t seem to particularly care for Ray-Ray McCloud, even when he’s not fumbling. But the point is, Baltimore has Pro Bowler Devin Duvernay. And we’re not even sure who’s going to be punting. Fans will be more comfortable if it’s newcomer Corliss Waitman, who has punted the past two weeks, but Pressley Harvin III has been back and a full go this week, presumably.