The Pittsburgh Steelers are catching a break in the sense that they will not have to face NFL MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson on Sunday when they play the Baltimore Ravens. However, after losing control of their wild card destiny last week, that may be the least of their concerns. The Ravens have not swept the season series from the Steelers since a pair of three-point victories in 2015.
How to Watch
When: Sunday, Dec. 29
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Pittsburgh (8-7) needs a victory and for AFC South champion Houston to beat Tennessee to claim the second wild card spot. The Steelers lost control of that berth with their surprising 16-10 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday, struggling to generate much traction offensively.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched quarterback Devlin Hodges for Mason Rudolph late in the first half. Rudolph threw a touchdown pass that pulled Pittsburgh even right before halftime, but Tomlin was forced to reinsert Hodges in the fourth quarter after Rudolph suffered a shoulder injury.
The rookie got just three first downs on three possessions in the final period, with the last drive ending on an incomplete pass at the Jets' 44-yard line. Hodges, who has been starting since Week 12, completed 11 of 17 passes, but only for 84 yards while getting intercepted twice and sacked three times.
Rudolph will not be a rescue option this time around, as the Steelers put him on IR on Tuesday with the left shoulder injury suffered in the loss. That leaves Hodges as the expected starter with Paxton Lynch in the backup role. Pittsburgh also added quarterback J.T. Barrett to the practice squad and could designate him as the No. 3 QB.
After missing four games with a knee injury and concussion, top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a pair of receptions for 22 yards. It has been a rough year for Smith-Schuster, who was thrust into the No. 1 receiver role following the departure of Antonio Brown.
The only thing Baltimore (13-2) has left to play for is extending its franchise-record winning streak to 12 games to close the season. The Ravens wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by avenging their loss to the Cleveland Browns 31-15 last Sunday.
Lamar Jackson put the finishing touches on his MVP campaign by accounting for 341 total yards of offense. He passed for 238 yards and three touchdowns, setting a single-season franchise record with 36 TD tosses, and added to his NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 103, giving him 1,206 for the season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh already announced that Jackson, along with a slew of starters will sit out the season finale as they prepare for the postseason. The other notable players on the offensive side of the ball who will be spectators Sunday include fellow 1,000-yard rusher and running back Mark Ingram and top pass catcher and tight end Mark Andrews.
Robert Griffin III, who has seen mop-up action in six games, will make his first start since 2016 when he played for Cleveland. Griffin, whose last appearance came in the Week 15 win over the New York Jets, has completed 12 of 17 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception.