OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Several Ravens players will get a much-needed break for the regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson will be among the starters who will be held out of the game because Baltimore has already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs, according to coach John Harbaugh.
Others players that will stay on the sidelines include right guard Marshal Yanda, safety Earl Thomas and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Running back Mark Ingram suffered a "mild to moderate calf injury" in the Ravens 31-15 victory over the Browns on Sunday and will not be ready to play.
Harbaugh made the decision after consulting with Yanda and several other players, along with the team's coaching staff, on the team's flight back from Cleveland.
“I think it’s a solid decision,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if it’s easy. I think there’s a strong case to be made either way, and I really recognize the other side of it. I think it’s a fair, valid case. You know, it’s real. So you’ve just got to kind of balance it out between two good choices, really.”
Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback for the Ravens and rookie sixth-round pick Trace McSorley could also play some snaps in place of Jackson, who said his preference was to play.
While Harbaugh has not formally spoken to Jackson about staying on the bench, he didn't expect any issues with him taking the day off.
"I haven’t talked to him, yet, about it. I know he’ll be completely on board, though. He wants to play," Harbaugh said. "But one thing about Lamar [Jackson] and all of our guys, they’ll be 100 percent behind the guys who are playing, and they’ll be doing everything they can do to get those guys prepared to play in this game and win the football game.”
Even if Jackson does not play, he will remain the lead candidate for MVP. He's done enough. More than enough.
Jackson is ranked first in the NFL with a franchise-record 36 touchdown passes and is third with a 113.3 quarterback rating. Jackson is sixth among all players with 1,206 yards rushing.
The Ravens are hopeful Ingram will be ready when Baltimore opens its playoff run in the divisional round of the playoffs, either Jan. 11 or Jan. 12. Ingram, in his first season with the Ravens, finished with 55 yards on eight carries against Cleveland before leaving with the calf injury in the fourth quarter. Ingram ends the regular season with 1,018 yards on the ground — the third time in his career that he's run for more than 1,000 yards.
The Ravens are deep at running back with both Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill able to carry the load.
Despite the absences, Harbaugh said the Ravens will put 100 percent effort into winning the game against Pittsburgh. Baltimore (13-2) is riding an 11-game winning streak and can also notch the most wins in franchise history for a single season by beating the Steelers.
Of course, the Ravens would very much enjoy knocking the Steelers out of the playoffs. Pittsburgh and Tennessee are tied for the AFC's No. 2 wild-card spot with 8-7 records. The Titans play in Houston and own the tie-breaker over Pittsburgh.
In addition, some of the other regular starters will have to play because of the limitations with available players on the 53-man roster.
“I think one thing that’s really important to understand is, this is pro football, not college football," Harbaugh said. "You can’t sit your starters in a game. That’s not how it works. You have up to seven options if you’re completely healthy. We don’t know exactly if we’ll be completely healthy or not. We’re very healthy, so that does bode well.”