By Trevor Woods
While the Ravens (13-2) have the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs locked up, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) need a victory in Baltimore on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Here are the key matchups:
Robert Griffin vs. Steelers Defense
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is sitting this game out to get some extra before the playoffs begin. This means RG3 will be making his first start since Jan. 1, 2017, when his Cleveland Browns lost to Pittsburgh 27-24 in the regular-season finale.
It's a tall task for Griffin, who's only attempted 17 passes this season. The Steelers defense has carried them to their 8-7 record, and they have the No. 5 pass defense in the NFL.
Is Griffin up for the challenge?
"I just think he's really locked in on the details of things," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "Taking it one play at a time, understanding what we're trying to get done in a short-term aspect on that particular play but also the big picture of what we're trying to accomplish. He's a true pro. He comes in every day, works hard, great teammate. I'm really excited to see him this week."
Devlin Hodges vs. Ravens Defense
Hodges got off to a hot start this season. The 23-year old QB led the Steelers to a 4-1 record in his first five appearances, but has now thrown six interceptions in over his last two games. Not good.
“I just have to take a step back to how I was playing those first couple of games and taking what the defense gives me,” Hodges said. “I have all of confidence in the world in myself and the guys, and I just have to go out and do it.”
Despite having a QBR of just 33.0 on the season with a 5:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, it's worth noting Hodges was 7 of 9 for 68 yards in Pittsburgh's 26-23 overtime loss to Baltimore in October. Hodges said that he has all the confidence in the world in himself and his teammates, and he's going to need that type of bravado to have any shot at beating the Ravens.
Ravens Rushing Attack vs. Steelers Front Seven
With Mark Ingram banged up and sitting out in Week 17 with a calf injury and Jackson on the bench, the Ravens rushing offense is going to look different. The Ravens have the No. 1 rushing attack, while the Steelers have the No. 10 rushing defense.
“It’s a very, very, very good defense, great defense, not only statistically, but they’re what you call a ‘That Dude Defense.’ They have that dude and that dude and that dude and that dude, so I know they’re not going to come into ‘The Bank’ and lay down," Griffin said this week. "They have everything to play for, and they have great players. It's going to be a physical game. It always is between the Ravens and the Steelers. That's kind of what we're focusing on."
With Ingram and Jackson out, don't expect RG3 to run a ton, instead the Ravens will likely turn to Gus Edwards, who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season — good enough for 2nd in the NFL among halfbacks.
“To beat this team, we’re going to have to run the ball well. If we run it for 93 yards, I think that would be good,” Edwards said. “Everybody has a great mindset right now. Guys are going to step up, and we’re focused on winning more than anything. But to have the record would be nice, as well.”