The last time the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers met came just a few short weeks ago in Week 14 at Acrisure Stadium. In that matchup, a handful of new faces debuted in the longtime rivalry, including a pair of faces that were involved in a play that changed the game early on that day on the North Shore.
Of course, I’m talking about Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith and Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.
On the fifth offensive play from scrimmage for the black and gold, the Ravens showed a double A-gap blitz, which confused the Steelers offensive line, particularly left guard Kevin Dotson, leading to Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen coming in free on Pickett in the pocket. Pickett did a great job of avoiding the sack from Queen, but eventually wound up in the arms of Smith, who slammed the rookie quarterback to the turf, resulting in a concussion.
Smith should have been called for a penalty on the play for grabbing hold of Pickett’s facemask and not letting go, but the play went unpenalized and Pickett went into the blue tent for a concussion evaluation. Though he was cleared to return, Pickett eventually left the game for good three plays later after a three-and-out from the Steelers on the next offensive possession, forcing backup Mitch Trubisky into the game.
Though Trubisky showed some promise in the game, his three interceptions were killer in the 16-14 loss, dropping the Steelers to 5-8 at the time and seemingly taking all the wind out of the sails of the Steelers in the second half of the season.
Now, after returning from his concussion in Week 16 against the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve, Pickett is gearing up for a rematch with the Ravens, this time on the road on Sunday Night Football. For Smith, he’s looking forward to getting another look at Pickett and hopes he can play a full game this time.
“If I’m not mistaken, I think he has only played one – last game – since the last time we played him. So, it will be nice to get out there and really get to see him for a full game,” Smith stated to reporters earlier this week, according to Steelers.com. “I’m excited about the challenge, and what he’ll bring to the table. I know he likes to pull it down a little bit. So, we’ll see.”
Smith knows all too well that Pickett likes to pull the ball down and make plays with his legs, which is exactly what he was trying to do when Smith recorded the game-changing sack early in the Dec. 11 matchup at Acrisure Stadium.
It was quite clear throughout the matchup after Pickett left the game that things might have been different if the rookie quarterback were still in the lineup. Instead, he was in concussion protocol, which ultimately forced him to miss the Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers afterward.
Hopefully, in his extended first look at the Ravens rivalry, Pickett can have the type of impact many were hoping for in the AFC North rivalry matchup the first time around before Smith’s sack knocked him from the game.