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Steelers Vs. Ravens Week 14 Pregame Stats Outlook

The 5-7 Pittsburgh Steelers won their second game in a row, their first win streak of the season, and look to keep it going as they host the divisional opponent and seemingly always injury riddled Baltimore Ravens (8-4) in a pivotal matchup.

Let’s get right into the matchup, starting with the quarterbacks. Here are the passing leaders through week 13:

The injury misfortunes start right away at the all-important quarterback position for Baltimore and Lamar Jackson, who is doubtful to play from the knee injury he suffered last game. That of course would be a huge loss, and while I never wish injury on any player, hopefully plays in Pittsburgh’s favor. We can see from the visual that Jackson is just above the NFL mean in pass attempts (326) and right below it in passing yards (2242) out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks, along with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He adds a whopping 764 on the ground which ranks 14th in the entire league, and also tops Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris’ 671 by over 100 yards!

Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett has been showing growth in his rookie season, most notably taking care of the football with no interceptions in the last four games since the bye week, compared to eight in his previous five games. He now has 293 attempts for 1,797 yards, with the latter ranking last in the NFL of players with at least 250 attempts. This emphasizes a big area I’ve been hoping Pickett can carry his encouraging progress to from my Steelers Quarterback Passing Locations studies, accuracy, and connection past ten yards. Particularly hoping to see his intermediate numbers improve, only at 32.1% compared to 86.6% overall according to my charting. He has four passing touchdowns on the year through nine games played now, highlighting the encouraging long drives we’ve seen fizzle out at or near the red zone overall. Here’s to hoping we see strides in these regards starting this Sunday against a solid Ravens defense and moving forward.

With Jackson likely missing this game, quarterback Tyler Huntley would get the nod for his first start this season, and as he familiarly did in the 2021 season finale where Pittsburgh eked out a 16-13 with a walk off field goal. Here is a visual of how he fared in the matchup last season, using passer rating and touchdown/interception ratio:

Here we can see Huntley struggled in the matchup with no passing touchdowns and two interceptions for the worst TD/INT ratio of -2 and 37.2 passer rating of the week. He went 16/31 for 141 yards with a 51.6 completion rate (fifth worst). An area of success in last season’s game was with his legs, rushing for 72 yards on only four attempts. While he’s not Jackson, this is undoubtably an element the Steelers recall and will look to limit, an area I highlighted in my recent run defense article that Pittsburgh’s defense could stand to improve in general. While a lot of time has passed since this game, it was his last starting opportunity, and will be very interesting to see if Pittsburgh’s defense can have similar success in this matchup. Last week in relief of Jackson, Huntley came in to start the second quarter and went 27/33 for a great 81.8 completion percentage, 187 yards with no passing touchdowns and an interception, and also ran five times for 41 yards against a solid Broncos defense for some improved recency context. How he plays against the Steelers defense is obviously huge and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Now for the running backs starting with rushing leaders through week 13:

Here we can see that Steelers running back Najee Harris is now above the mean in both data points, highlighting the much-improved running game and coming off a great performance where he ran hard and posted his best 5.1 yards per attempt number of the season (17 attempts, 86 yards). He comfortably leads the outlook with 175 attempts and 671 yards along with four touchdowns on the season, and is much closer to the trendline (diagonal line) amongst the 49 qualifying players and compared to his well below average rushing yards earlier in the season. Harris also leads the matchup in receiving with 37 targets, 30 catches, and two touchdowns along with 148 yards which is second in the outlook.

Fellow running back Jaylen Warren holds this crown on 151 receiving yards and has the highest catch percentage (90%) in the matchup, on 20 targets and 18 receptions which each rank second with no touchdowns. On the ground, he has 39 attempts (fifth in the matchup), 195 yards (T-fourth), and no touchdowns as well. If the playing time of the backup running backs continue, I hope Warren can get in the end zone for the first time this year. Benny Snell has also started to get opportunities as of late, with 18 rush attempts on his 21 offensive snaps, for 86 yards which is good for a 4.8 average and a touchdown, along with two catches for 17 yards.

There are no exceptions to the injury bug for the Ravens at the position, with planned starter J.K. Dobbins only playing in four games earlier this season, with 35 attempts, 123 yards (3.5 average), and has a rushing and receiving touchdown. There is a possibility he could be activated from injured reserve prior to the matchup after returning to practice prior to week 13, and will be interesting to see if he plays. Fellow running back Gus Edwards has also played in four games as well, all occurring more recently and has 49 attempts, 195 rush yards (ties with Warren on seven less games), and three touchdowns which ties for second in the outlook.

Now we get to their running back who has seen the most playing time and makes the chart, Kenyan Drake. He has been a quality addition this season amidst the injuries, and is second in the outlook with 92 attempts, 421 yards (4.6 average), and three touchdowns. He has the longest run in the matchup, a double explosive 40 yarder and is good in the receiving game, leading the team with 18 targets, 13 receptions, and a receiving touchdown. Fullback Patrick Richard is a unique player, built like an offensive lineman and is one of if not the best blockers at his position in the NFL (1st in PFF run block grade among fullbacks), is second on the team in targets (13) and receptions (11) from the backfield, and is used occasionally as a rusher. Justice Hill is third in the outlook with 225 rush yards, but his opportunities have fizzled the last two games, along with a fumble last week on his only attempt may keep him out of favor this week.

Next, let’s look at running back’s time to the line of scrimmage and rates at which they’ve faced eight men in the box:

Drake has seen the sixth highest rate of men in the box, a datapoint that is more telling to defenses committing to the threat of Jackson and their strong running game in general. For comparison, Harris has seen 8MIB at a below the mean 18.9% (32nd), along with hitting the line of scrimmage at the 13th quickest rate through week 13, a more decisive and aggressive run style that has really aided Pittsburgh’s recent improvements. Drake has the fourth longest time to the line of scrimmage, allowing the quality run blockers up front to pave the way on his healthy yards per attempt number. If the other Baltimore rushers qualified in attempts, we would likely see similar results. This highlights a key that Pittsburgh’s defense may be able to avoid compared to Jackson at the helm, and if they can, should be able to focus more attention on stellar tight end Mark Andrews. It will be very interesting to see how this huge key of the game plays out, and how Baltimore’s third ranked rushing offense fares against Pittsburgh’s sixth ranked rushing defense.

Perfect time to move to the tight ends, beginning with the receiving stats leaders:

We have a great tight end matchup on our hands Sunday afternoon with Andrews and Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth. The former is second at the position in targets (86), yards (654), and tied for second with five touchdowns out of 29 qualifying players. He has surprisingly not made it to the end zone since week six, and dealt with a couple of injuries himself along with scoreless outings in his last five games. Here’s to hoping Pittsburgh’s defense can keep this going and give him the attention he deserves. Big game for the Pittsburgh linebackers for sure against him and the running game.

Freiermuth now ranks fourth in the NFL in targets (76) and yards (597), and a touchdown earlier this season. While he and Pickett have established a strong connection in many regards, they have yet to connect for a score. Pickett missed him on an overthrow that likely would have gone for six though, so hopefully that near feat comes to fruition this week, and would be ideally refreshing if it came in the red zone against Baltimore’s defense (more on this to come). Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely also makes the chart, with 37 targets, 236 yards, and bests Freiermuth with two touchdowns, each coming in the two-game span that Andrews missed due to injury.

Next, I wanted to add more context to the tight ends overall yardage with percent of teams air yards, showing how much they’ve been leaned on by their squads in 2022:

Here we see Andrews has been relied on far more than any other player at his position with 31.3% TAY, topping Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who bests him in total receiving yards. Andrews is the focal point of the Ravens passing attack and Jackson’s favorite target, so it will be interesting to see if there is an affect if Jackson is indeed out. Andrews got a healthy eight targets last week, seven of which came from Huntley, and four of those going for completions including an explosive 22 yarder. So, the one game sample points to business as usual for Andrews. Huntley’s interception did come on a target to Andrews, and here’s to hoping Pittsburgh can do the same this week. Freiermuth has accounted for 18.4% of Pittsburgh’s air yards, a healthy number at the position but is third on the team, which highlights once again how important it is to focus on limiting Andrews.

Last thing for the position, here are yards after catch (YAC), and catch percentages:

The starting tight ends each land below the NFL mean in each data point, but we can see Freiermuth has the edge in both regards through week 13, particularly in YAC. He ranks 16th with a 4.93 average that got a huge boost last week thanks to a valiant effort on an air yard target of nine yards, breaking tackles and getting up the sideline for a double explosive (nearly triple) 57-yard gain, the longest play for Pittsburgh on the season! He now has a 65.8 completion percentage, slightly down from last week, but a notch above Andrews’ 65.1 that lands at the following rank (20th). He is also toward the bottom position in YAC, with a 3.72 average that ranks 24th. Here’s to hoping Pittsburgh defense can continue their strong season in the tackling department, highlighted here by our own Josh Carney’s missed tackles report, along with creating more on offense in the pass game, aiding a Steelers team that has struggled in the YAC department.

Nice time to move to the wide receivers, starting with receiving stat leaders through week 13:

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson is by far the most targeted in the matchup on the season, now with 105 which ranks seventh in the NFL out of 87 qualifying players. His 565 yards is finally above the NFL mean, but the furthest away from the tread line, highlighting his well below average output given the volume. We’re at week 14, and unfathomably he is still yet to score a touchdown. If Pickett can make some needed improvements near/in the red zone, notably missing him on an underthrow in the end zone last week, here’s to hoping this crazy achievement is finally reached. Johnson tied his highest snap percentage from the slot last game (19.4%), and hopefully that aids some quality matchups against Baltimore’s secondary, particularly freeing him from a likely primary matchup against a stellar cornerback in Marlon Humphrey at times.

Fellow wide receiver George Pickens is second in the outlook with 61 targets, 512 yards, and two touchdowns. Surely you’re aware of his quiet game by now, clearly frustrated about his one catch, two-yard performance last week with only two targets. It will be interesting to see what kind of game he has, and who matches up with him primarily, considering he saw even more slot snaps, at a high 37% rate which is by far his most on the season. Curious to see who matches up with Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters primarily, considering recent struggles in coverage, allowing an over 100 passer rating in each of the last six games.

Ravens’ wide receiver Rashod Bateman was lost for the season, placed on injured reserve after appearing in six games with 28 targets, 285 yards, and two touchdowns. Baltimore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson leads the team with 50 targets at the position, along with 45 targets for fellow wide receiver Devin Duvernay. They have each played in all 12 games for the team, the only players at the position to do so. Robinson pairs this with 338 yards which is last of the four players in the outlook, along with one touchdown, and has played a whopping 92.9% out wide.

Duvernay has 378 yards, the most for Ravens wide receivers along with a matchup high three touchdowns, impressively on the fewest targets in the outlook. He has moved around the formation, 65.7% out wide and most recently had 58.3% from the slot last week, a noticeable increase from his season average. Other names at the position include James Proche, who has played in ten games, with just 11 targets, and 62 yards. DeSean Jackson was added in season and played in three games, is still a deep threat at 36 years old, and provided a triple explosive catch in week 12.

Next, I wanted to provide separation numbers and catch percentages:

Here we can see Duvernay and Robinson lead the outlook in both regards. Duvernay ranks 14th in the NFL in separation and has maximized this with the third ranked 77.8 catch percentage in the league! Would not surprise me if he causes some damage with Pittsburgh’s defense likely focusing in on Andrews and the running game. Robinson follows closely with a 19th rank in separation, but a much lower 66% catch rate that is just above the NFL mean. Johnson is third in the outlook in separation (2.9) which climbed the ranks to 39th league-wide (previously 48th), but his 58.1 catch percentage is last in the outlook and took a hit following his 10 target, five reception outing last week, now ranking a very low 71st. The chart/numbers add context to the aforementioned connection issues with Pickett rather than drops overall, though it was an issue last week. Pickens is third in the outlook with a 60.7 catch percentage that ranks 63rd, and an outlook low separation number that ranks 74th, each a slight downtick this week.

Last bit of context for the wide receivers, I wanted to look at and provide cushion (distance between the receiver and primary defender at the snap) and YAC averages for 2022:

Here we can see similar results for each team, particularly Baltimore. Their wide receivers have been given the sixth and seventh most cushion, adding context to their stronger separation and catch rates. Pickens and Johnson continue to see crowded coverage at the line, the former with the third least cushion in the entire NFL, and Johnson at ninth. The YAC results come out as expected with all things considered as well, with Duvernay leading the matchup in this regard with a 4.29 number which is just below the league mean (42nd). Robinson follows close behind with a 3.94 YAC, comfortably second in the outlook. Pickens now has a 2.34 YAC number that obviously took a hit and now is the fifth lowest in the league, and Johnson’s encouragingly improving in a better effort getting north and south more often for an improved 2.16 YAC (previously 1.95), but still is third lowest in the NFL. Knock on wood that continues.

The offensive lines are always key to any matchup, and let’s see how the two teams have fared thus far with PFF grades:

We can see the Ravens lead the outlook with three players clearly above the mean in both run and pass blocking, with five leading the outlook in the latter, along with the dot sizes highlighting injures at this position as well. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley leads the outlook with a stellar 90 grade as a pass blocker which ties for second in the NFL out of players with at least 150 snaps, but has a below the mean 59.6 run block grade. He has played in only six games this season though, spanning from weeks five through 11 including a bye week, and seems likely to return with no game status on the Friday injury report. Stanley’s return would no doubt be huge, and a tough matchup for Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith hoping to build on his strong season. Patrick Mekari has played both tackle spots this season, playing left tackle most upon Stanley’s absence, starting in four contests at that spot and played in 11 games this season and is questionable for the contest. He has a 79.7 pass block grade which ranks fourth in the outlook, along with a run block grade of 62.7 that ranks sixth. Rookie Daniel Faalele has played the spot most recently, relieving Mekari due to injury as well. Faalele has struggled mightily at the position (right tackle a better fit in out pre-draft analysis), posting a 50.4 pass block grade along with a 47.9 run block grade, which each rank last in the outlook. Revolving door to say the least at left tackle.

Right tackle Morgan Moses has played in every game this season, and has played well with the highest 77.2 run block grade and a 78.9 pass block grade for the most well-rounded results in the outlook. Should be a great matchup with Pittsburgh edge rusher T.J. Watt, who will hopefully be healthier after a lingering rib issue and lead the Pittsburgh pass rush that’s coming off a quiet outing overall. Right guard Kevin Zeitler has also fits the bill of health to date, but is questionable for this contest. He has above the mean grades with a strong 80 in pass blocking (third in the outlook) and 65.7 as a run blocker. Center Tyler Linderbaum is another rookie, selected in the first round and is having a good season as a run blocker (77) ranking second in the outlook and has played in all 12 games, but a low 53.9 pass block grade that is second worst. Left guard Ben Powers has also played in every game and is second in the outlook with an 86.3 pass block grade, but a poor 48.5 run block grade that is second worst of the matchup. Very interested to see how Pittsburgh defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi fare in the middle, and hopefully can exploit Linderbaum with an interior pass rush, along with Heyward matching up with Powers in obvious run situations to hopefully capitalize with some stops in the run game.

Many offensive linemen made the ESPN’s top ten in win rates at their positions this week. For pass blocking, Steelers guard Daniels tops the outlook with the seventh rank in pass block win rate, Moses coming in at ninth, and refreshing to see Pittsburgh center Mason Cole get some love and round out the list of centers with the tenth rank. Four Baltimore lineman made the cut as run blockers with Linderbaum ranking third, Mekari and Powers ranking fourth, and Stanley ranking sixth. So, ESPN favors Baltimore in run blocking even more than the PFF grades, highlighting the running game being a big concern as mentioned earlier and priority one for the Steelers defense to try and stop. On a team level, Baltimore ranks first in run block win rate along with third in pass blocking, compared to Pittsburgh’s 20th run stop win rate paired with a much better seventh rank in pass block win rate.

Pittsburgh’s PFF grades land below Baltimore, particularly in the pass blocking department. Daniels and fellow guard Kevin Dotson have the most well-rounded grades, with each landing close to the mean and highlights Baltimore’s edge in the matchup. Daniels has a 62.9 run block grade that is above the mean, along with a 72 as a pass blocker that is average in the outlook. Daniels has the stronger pass block grade of 74.8 that ranks sixth, along with a lower 60 run block grade that is below the mean. Cole is well above the mean with a PFF run block grade of 67.2 (third in the outlook) along with a below average 66 pass block grade that ranks ninth. Steelers tackles Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor land below the mean in both data points. Moore has the edge in both facets, trending positively as the season’s progressed, now with a 67.9 pass block grade (eighth) along with a 55.7 run block grade that is ninth in the outlook. Okorafor has a 65.5 pass block grade (tenth) and a 53.3 run block grade that ranks tenth. There has been encouraging yet inconsistent progress since the bye week, and very thankful for the health of the unit (knocks on wood), especially after writing up the Ravens position room and offense, whew.

Let’s move on to the defenses, looking at key third down and red zone conversion rates:

Right away we can see Baltimore has been excellent at limiting opposing offenses on third down, ranking very high second in the NFL allowing only a 32.6% conversion rate, not what we want to see as Steelers fans as one of the main elements the Pittsburgh offense needs to improve. An area of optimism though is the Ravens 55.3% rate of touchdowns in the red zone, which is above the league mean but a lower rank of 15th. So, if the Steelers offense can buck the trend and move the football as they have done as of late (granted, against lesser competition) they could find more success on their trips near and in the red zone, which would be a huge and refreshing improvement from last week and key factor in hopes of victory.

Pittsburgh’s defense lands near the mean in both situations, allowing a 39.7 conversion rate on third down which is just above the NFL average of 40%, along with giving up touchdowns in the red zone 55.9% of the time, each ranking 17th across the league. Hopefully they can trend positively against an injury plagued Ravens team, which would be a huge factor is getting a divisional win and keeping the season alive.

Wanted to share some team defense rankings I gathered when studying the matchup as well. Both teams have struggled in giving up passing yards, with Baltimore raking 26th and Pittsburgh 28th. Hopefully Pickett can be another benefactor to the Ravens result, along with the Steelers defense improving upon their number with Huntley at the helm. ESPN team win rates were telling as well, with Baltimore winning out across the board. The Ravens currently rank 18th in the NFL in pass rush win rate, their modest ranking, while Pittsburgh ranks 20th. In run stop win rates, the Ravens rank seventh compared to the Steelers at 26th for the biggest gap in the matchup. Harris and the running game certainly have their work cut out for them. Pittsburgh has allowed the sixth fewest rush yards as I mentioned earlier, encouraging but more individual wins against blockers would definitely be welcomed for an even stronger collective effort. In terms of Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt, Baltimore ranks 11th with a 5.9 number compared to the Steelers at 24th at 6.6, which should ideally be lower than six. The Ravens are tied for fourth in takeaways (20) compared to Pittsburgh’s 17, which ties for ninth. Hopefully Pickett keeps his turnover-less streak going along with Pittsburgh getting multiple against Huntley and the Baltimore offense. An edge for the Steelers comes in limiting successful plays for opposing offenses, with the fifth rank in the NFL, while Baltimore ranks 17th. If this data holds true, Pittsburgh’s offense should aim and could find success moving the chains on early downs, hopefully sustaining drives and avoiding third down where the Baltimore defense has thrived.

Let’s look at the defenses from a player stats perspective to close, starting with Pittsburgh. Linebacker Myles Jack leads the team with 94 combined tackles, three passes defensed, two tackles for loss, and one quarterback hit. Fellow linebacker Devin Bush is second but nearly 30 tackles lower (65 combined), with two passes defensed, two quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss. Here’s to hoping both can have a strong game, with the challenges Baltimore presents in both the run and pass game. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick leads the team with four interceptions, adding to his total with a game sealing one that he unselfishly ran out of bounds so Pickett could kneel for the win, which could have gone for his second touchdown of the season. He also ranks third on the team in combined tackles (62), passes defensed (eight), along with a tackle for loss and quarterback hit.

Highsmith impressively leads the team with ten sacks, 15 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, tied for the team lead with eight tackles for loss, along with 44 combined tackles, and a pass defensed. Heyward has come on strong and ties for the team lead in tackles for loss, second in 13 quarterback hits and five sacks (added one last week), along with 46 combined tackles, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and recovery. Ogunjobi is third on the team with eight quarterback hits, along with 32 combined tackles, three for a loss, and a half sack. Cornerback Levi Wallace leads the team with 11 passes defensed, second in interceptions (three), along with 36 combined tackles. Fellow cornerback Cameron Sutton is second with ten passes defensed now, along with 31 combined tackles, two interceptions, and a tackle for loss.

For Baltimore, Patrick Queen is a great player that leads the team with 85 combined tackles, eight tackles for loss, along with nine quarterback hits, four sacks, four passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble but is another player that is questionable for the contest. Safety Chuck Clark is second on the team with 71 combined tackles, solid in that department along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery, and a pass defensed. Humphrey is a playmaker and leads the team with six passes defensed, tied for the lead with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, is third on the team with 50 combined tackles, along with four quarterback hits, three sacks, and three tackles for loss. Edge rusher Justin Houston leads the team with nine sacks, second with 11 quarterback hits, tackles for loss (seven), along with 17 combined tackles, an interception, pass defensed, and forced fumble. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell is a force and leads the team in quarterback hits (14), ties for the team lead in forced fumbles, is second in sacks (5.5), along with 29 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, and two passes defensed.

Safety Marcus Williams may also be able to return from injured reserved, is tied for the team lead in interceptions (three), tied for second in passes defensed (five), along with 33 combined tackles, a fumble recovery and tackle for loss. Peters ties for the team lead in forced fumbles and recoveries with two each, second with five passes defensed, along with 40 combined tackles, two for a loss, an interception, sack, and a quarterback hit. Cornerback Brandon Stephens is one of three players that ties for second in passes defensed (five), along with 24 combined tackles. Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike is third on the team with six tackles for loss, along with 27 combined tackles, six quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks, and three passes defensed. Edge rusher Odafe Oweh has five tackles for loss, 31 combined tackles, seven quarterback hits, two sacks, and a forced fumble and recovery. The defense is also stacked with more talent including newly acquired linebacker Roquan Smith from the Bears, first round pick Kyle Hamilton, and veteran edge rusher Jason Pierre Paul to name a few. What a tough test for a trending Pittsburgh offense, and here’s to hoping the can come out on top and keep their season alive on Sunday.

How do you think the game will play out against Baltimore? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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