One of the biggest rivalries in the NFL continues on Sunday as the Steelers host the Ravens. Pittsburgh (5-5-1) swept Baltimore last season, beating the Ravens 28-24 on the road and 19-14 at home. The second of those two meetings featured Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley as Baltimore's quarterback with Griffin being the team's leading rusher that game. In the first meeting, the Steelers came up with the victory thanks to a Ben Roethlisberger-to-Chase Claypool touchdown connection in the fourth quarter.
This season, the Ravens have won three of their last four and have the AFC's best record at 8-3. However, their AFC North is just a game over Cincinnati and 2.5 over last-place Cleveland. Last Sunday night, Baltimore struggled but still managed to defeat those Browns, 16-10 at home. Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions and also led the team with 68 yards on 17 carries. The defense stood stall, holding the beat-up Browns to 262 yards and 14 first downs while forcing two turnovers.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh dropped its third in a row, getting blasted 41-10 by the Bengals in Cincinnati. This came on the heels of a 41-37 road loss to the Chargers. Joe Mixon gashed the Steelers for a career-high 165 rushing yards while Najee Harris managed just 23 on eight carries. It was a woeful effort for Pittsburgh's offense, which turned the ball over three times (all by Roethlisberger) and didn't find the end zone until three minutes left in the game.
Baltimore (8-3) at Pittsburgh (5-5-1)
Kickoff: Sun Dec. 5 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Ravens -4.5
Three Things to Watch
The Ravens are in the midst of a stretch of four of five games on the road. They also are playing their second straight AFC North contest, which is sandwiched between another meeting with the Browns, this time in Cleveland. Focus will not be an issue considering the rivalry between these teams. Pittsburgh is back home after two straight losses on the road. The defense has given up a lot of points lately but has gotten little support, if any, from the offense. The Steelers have a quick turnaround for next week's game, as they will travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings on "Thursday Night Football." The good news is that linebacker T.J. Watt, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week, was cleared on Saturday so he's eligible to play, although cornerback Joe Haden (foot) could miss another game due to injury.
2. Lamar Jackson
Jackson is throwing the ball a lot more for the Ravens this season, having already attempted 341 passes through 11 games. That's just 35 fewer than all of 2020. He's still averaging 12.3 rushing attempts per game, but Pittsburgh knows full well what to expect when facing Jackson. He is coming off of his first game with more than two interceptions, having tossed four against the Browns this past Sunday night. His last such poor showing came in 2019 when he had three picks against the Steelers. Whether Jackson bounces back remains to be seen, but it does appear that Pittsburgh will have Watt in the lineup. His presence can't be overstated, as Watt's impact goes beyond the 12.5 sacks (second in NFL) he has recorded thus far.
3. Big Ben
The other quarterback in this matchup has been a shell of himself this season with just 14 touchdowns to six interceptions on 384 attempts. He doesn't have the same arm that he did earlier in his career, which has made him check down a lot more. He's completed just three passes over 50 yards this season. You can throw on the Ravens, currently last in the league in passing defense at 275.7 yards per game. But Roethlisberger has gone over that mark just twice this season and the last of those performances came back in Week 3. Getting Najee Harris also would be a welcome sign for the Steelers' offense. He's averaging just 3.6 yards per carry for the season and has totaled 123 yards over his last three games.
Everything points to a Ravens victory in this one, but I'm going the other way. I know the Steelers are down, but they should have Watt on defense and that's a big boost. Still, there's something to be said about pride in a divisional rivalry and playing at home. It's been a weird couple of weeks for Baltimore, and I think it continues here as Pittsburgh pulls off the upset.
Prediction: Steelers 23, Ravens 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.