The Baltimore Ravens hold a tenuous lead atop the AFC North, but in order to keep it, they'll have to face their hated rivals on the road without their starting quarterback.
Baltimore travels to Pittsburgh for the first of two games this season on Sunday and will be without Lamar Jackson, who left last week's game with a sprained PCL. In his stead will be Tyler Huntley, who will be tasked with ending the Ravens' four-game skid against the Steelers.
Huntley was leading the Ravens in one of the two losses to Pittsburgh last year. While an ankle injury sidelined Jackson, Huntley went 16-of-31 for 141 yards and two interceptions. Of course, that also was Ben Roethlisberger's final game, and the Steelers have a new QB under center, rookie Kenny Pickett.
But Huntley will be coming into this contest on a high note after leading the Ravens (8-4) to the game-winning score with 28 seconds left in a 10-9 win over the Broncos. Neither team really played well as both finished with fewer than 300 total yards and went a combined 5-for-25 on third down. Baltimore turned it over twice, but all Denver could muster was three field goals. Kenyan Drake and Gus Edwards combined for 41 rushing yards — or the equivalent of Huntley's rushing effort. The defense did its job, though, as they picked up the slack for the struggling offense.
Pittsburgh (5-7) moved to 3-1 since its bye with a 19-16 win in Atlanta last Sunday. Pickett managed the game well with 197 passing yards and a touchdown to Connor Heyward in the second quarter. Najee Harris also was effective on the ground with 86 yards on 17 carries. The defense was very good, too, as it held the Falcons to just 306 yards of total offense while getting one sack and one interception of Marcus Mariota.
Baltimore (8-4) at Pittsburgh (5-7)
Three things to Watch
The Ravens are in the middle of a four-game stretch with three road contests. Next up is a short week and a road trip to Cleveland to take on Deshaun Watson on the NFL Network as one of Week 15's three Saturday games. Every game is important down the stretch for Baltimore if it hopes to take the AFC North crown. Two of the Ravens' four losses have come on the road – 24-20 at the Giants in Week 6 and 28-27 at the Jaguars in Week 12. The Steelers are home after two straight road victories. Pittsburgh is just 2-3 at Acrisure Stadium (former Heinz Field) but will have more opportunities to improve on that with three of the final five games at home. Next week the Steelers will face the Panthers in Charlotte, but focus shouldn't be an issue for this matchup because of the rivalry and other factors.
2. Huntley at the helm
Head coach John Harbaugh said that Lamar Jackson is "week-to-week" with what is being reported as a sprained PCL. He's likely to miss more than one game, which thrusts Tyler Huntley back into the center of this rivalry. Huntley wasn't terrible last week against the Broncos after coming in the middle of the contest to rescue Baltimore and lead the Ravens to victory. The signal-caller got a ton of action last year and had three touchdown passes to four interceptions while adding two TDs on the ground. The mobility element helps him out, although teams would be preparing for it anyways considering Jackson's skill set. Of note, Huntley ran it 12 times for 72 yards against the Steelers in the Week 18 overtime loss last season.
3. Finding offense for Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett faces one of his toughest tests on Sunday as he takes on a very stout Ravens defense. Baltimore is 25th against the pass, but the Ravens have dealt with injuries throughout the season and have allowed an average of just 215.7 yards through the air over the last three contests. The Steelers will need their ground game to show up to take some of the pressure off the rookie QB, but Baltimore is No. 2 against the run. Last year, Najee Harris had just 99 rushing yards on 32 carries in both games combined, which won't cut it. The good news is that he's been more productive lately with 86 or more rushing yards in three of his last four outings. He's dealing with an oblique injury that has limited his practice participation, so that's something to keep an eye on.
Divisional games are always tough to figure out, and the Steelers have played better as of late, but the Ravens have been a more consistent team this season. Baltimore's defense will have to carry a lot of the lead on Sunday with Jackson expected to be sidelined but Huntley has plenty of experience under his belt. However, the road has not been kind fo the Ravens and I think that's the case one again. There won't be a ton of touchdowns scored but the home team will get the one that matters in the end.
Prediction: Steelers 16, Ravens 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
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