Run Game Will Determine Winner of Steelers, Ravens Matchup

Steelers Ravens

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Baltimore Ravens, things did not go their way. They dropped a 16-14 game at home which was very winnable. After rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett went down early, Mitch Trubisky came in for the rest of the game. But he and the rest of the offense were disappointing, leading to a partial letdown. Trubisky finished with three interceptions (two in the red zone), and the team allowed a field goal try to be blocked. The Ravens only one by two points which means another score would’ve won it for the Steelers. Even if all those offensive letdowns still happened, Pittsburgh still had another chance to get the ball. Despite knowing Baltimore would run on three straight plays, they couldn’t stop J.K. Dobbins from getting ten yards and the rest of the time was consumed.

Stopping the run, spreading the ball out on offense, and limiting turnovers to a minimum, will all be key to a Week 17 Steelers win over divisional rival Baltimore.

Three Keys For A Pittsburgh Steelers Victory In Week 17 To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

The Three Keys And What They Entail

Stopping The Run

Coach Mike Tomlin stressed this issue the most in his talks about preparing for Week 17. As a team, the Ravens ran for 215 yards over the Steelers, with an average of over five yards per carry. J.K. Dobbins amassed 120 yards on 15 carries while Gus Edwards gained 66 yards on 13 carries. They both broke out for big runs and each had multiple runs of 15 yards or more, including a 44-yarder for Dobbins. The Ravens’ offense, headed by Tyler Huntley, could only manage 94 total passing yards in the game. Huntley is expected to start again and the Steelers will have to force him to throw.

The biggest part of stopping the run is limiting first-down gains and allowing no big runs. If a team can get 5-7 yards on first down via a run, it opens up the playbook vastly and allows for a down for taking a shot or testing something out. If the Steelers can hold the running back tandem of Edwards and Dobbins to under 125 yards combined, I believe Pittsburgh can pull away with a close win because of Baltimore’s lackluster passing game.

Spread The Ball, Both In Run+Passing Game

This key is the least important out of the three but is definitely still a pressing issue. The Steelers are going to need to get Najee Harris quite a few touches and make sure he has at least 75+ total yards. He was held to just 50 total yards in Week 14 (33 rushing, 17 receiving) and he’ll have to be more impactful with that. If the running game is working at least decently, then that opens the door for some timely passing plays.

Kenny Pickett will have to spread out the ball to his various receivers in order to create a productive passing game. In last week’s game against the Raiders, each of the Steelers’ star pass catchers had at least five catches and 50+ yards. The team will need to repeat that line or at least come close to it, or the offense will be shut down. This Ravens defense is solid and will challenge the Steelers to do different things. But Pittsburgh will have to adapt, spread out the ball, and let the game flow their way.

Limit Turnovers To One or Less

This one is as simple as it sounds: no normal NFL team playing a good opponent can turn the ball over multiple times and win. For the Steelers, they are 7-2 when they turn the ball over zero times or one time. When they turn the ball over twice or more, they are unsurprisingly 0-6. All seven of their wins have come when they have either zero or one turnover(s). Last time around, Trubisky threw three picks against the Ravens, two in the red zone, which greatly hindered the Steelers’ chances of winning. They are responsible for their own shortcomings and that is the only reason that they’re 7-8 this year. This team is outperforming their expectations but underperforming in what they can do and what their record should be.

Score Predictions Based On Meeting Goals

Playing Well Or With Only Minor Issues

Disclaimer: These are simply predictions and will likely not reflect the score because anything can happen in any given week.

If Pittsburgh meets all three of these goals, they should earn a rather convincing win. With a lackluster passing game in the Ravens, the Steelers’ defense should dominate overall and give plenty of chances to the offense. It is the Steeler way to make most games close so it won’t be a blowout. But meeting all of these keys, I believe, should net them a win with the score around 24-13.

If the Steelers only meet two of these keys, it will be a lot closer game. But I think that based on the rosters the teams are throwing out on Sunday Pittsburgh should prevail. If they do well with the first two but struggle with turnovers, then I think they barely pull off a win, maybe 17-16. If they play well offensively but struggle to defend the ground game, it could honestly go either way. I would still have to side with Pittsburgh and say a 24-20 victory is likely in that scenario.

Failing To Meet Goals or Playing Flat Out Horrible

If Pittsburgh manages to only meet one of these goals or none of them, it will be a rough day. Depending on how big these issues impact them (long runs vs. short but effective, red zone turnovers, etc…) it could be a very different tale. If they turn the ball over twice or more and fail to stop the run, it will be like the result in Week 14. In that case, I think Baltimore comes out with a 19-16 win.

However, if the Steelers come out completely flat, it will be a long day for them and their fans. I don’t expect it to be a blowout but it will definitely be convincing for Baltimore. In that case, I would expect something around a 23-13 win for the Ravens.

Impacts of the Game

The Steelers are fighting for their lives in the postseason race. One loss in either of their last two games means an immediate elimination. But they can also be eliminated by not getting help from other teams. In fact, they could be completely eliminated before their game on Sunday night if the Patriots do not beat the Dolphins or if the Seahawks do not beat the Jets.

Veterans like Cam Heyward and TJ Watt will get the team ready and let them know just how important the game is. Mike Tomlin has not had a losing season in his tenure with the Steelers (15+ years) and a single loss would destroy that fact. The team should play with an extra emotional boost and a chip on their shoulder. The Steelers should get back to .500 barring them making too many mistakes on either side of the ball.