Who: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
When: Sunday, December 29th at 4:25 PM ET
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Broadcast Team: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Spread: Steelers (1.5)
One year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their season end with a Baltimore Ravens victory over the Cleveland Browns, a result that eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention. Fast-forward to a year later, where the now back-to-back divisional champion Ravens have the potential to again end Pittsburgh's playoff hopes with a victory over the Steelers this Sunday.
For the Ravens, the number one seed is already locked up. The road to the AFC crown officially goes through Baltimore, and with nothing else to gain, the Ravens will look to sit a handful of key starting players to ensure they're in good health come playoff time. The following Ravens will not be participating, per the team's official site: Lamar Jackson, Marshal Yanda, Earl Thomas III, Mark Ingram and Brandon Williams.
Pittsburgh's playoff fate rests within a victory and a Tennessee Titans loss on Sunday, to keep things simple. Will the Steelers find a path to victory when it matters most?
To answer that question (and more), I had the privilege of speaking with Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw on the upcoming match-up. For more Ravens updates, follow Richard on Twitter @RichieBradz36.
Donnie Druin: Wow, what a season Baltimore has had. The Ravens became the first team to capture back to back AFC North titles for the first time since... the Steelers did it in 2016/2017. What’s been the key to overthrowing the Steelers as kings of the division?
Richard Bradshaw: Well you can’t deny that health prohibited the Steelers from being the team we believed them to be this off-season. The defense is stifling and an offense with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger changes the year Pittsburgh just had. Baltimore has found success offensively by putting together a unit that can out-score you no matter how many points you put up. The defense is just good enough to keep pace with the offense, but a youthful foundation has Ravens Flock thinking Super Bowls (yes, multiple)
Donnie: What’s the overall feeling around Baltimore? Is it Super Bowl or bust?
Richard: One of my writers, Noah Zomback, actually talked about this earlier in the week. Anything short of a Super Bowl berth will be disappointing considering the historic season the Ravens put together. However, the future is bright and Baltimore knows that even if they don’t win that they’ll be back again.
Donnie: It’s week seventeen, and the Ravens have the power to send the Steelers home from playoff contention. Even though a handful of prominent starters won’t be playing, this is still a game Baltimore wants to win, correct?
Richard: Absolutely. The Baltimore Ravens are Ron Burgandy and the Pittsburgh Steelers are Wes Mantooth: they hate but respect each other. There would be nothing sweeter than to assure that the Steelers don’t make the playoffs by beating them with their backups in the starting lineup.
Donnie: With the first seed locked up, it looks like Robert Griffin III will get the start in week seventeen. From the limited action we’ve seen from Griffin this year, what does he bring to the table as veteran quarterback?
Richard: Robert Griffin III isn’t who he once was, but that isn’t a bad thing. Gone are the days of reckless and exciting play, replacing it with a steady and smoother running quarterback. RGIII can still run the offense literally and figuratively, so just imagine putting the offense with Lamar Jackson at half-speed.
Donnie: Name your regular season offensive and defensive MVP’s not named Lamar Jackson and Earl Thomas.
Richard: Mark Ingram is undoubtedly your offensive MVP behind his franchise-record tying 15 scrimmage touchdowns. Ingram has been a hard-nosed runner from day one and looks like a classic Baltimore Ravens running back.
Defensively, I’d have to go with Matt Judon. The front-seven has been a liability at times due to a subpar pass rush, but Judon has been a non-stop force off the edge. Thanks to the man whose body was built by Taco Bell, Baltimore’s defense has remained a good one.
Donnie: From an outsiders perspective, how do you feel about Pittsburgh’s future with Ben Roethlisberger returning in 2020?
Richard: I think a healthy Ben Roethlisberger makes these Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North contenders, but I wonder about his durability. We know that Big Ben can sling it and keep pace with the best of the best, but is he that guy anymore? I just don’t know.
Donnie: Back to actual football talk, there’s been a degree of respect that will be maintained between the Ravens and the Steelers. It’s always a hard fought rivalry, and it looks like it will still be that way for years to come. Rather than a final score prediction, go ahead and give me playoff prediction for your Ravens.
Richard: The Baltimore Ravens are going to run the table and make it to the Super Bowl. The only team in the AFC who I believe could challenge the Ravens would be the Kansas City Chiefs, who would have to make it to the AFC Championship game to play us in Baltimore.
As for the Super Bowl, I like the Ravens chances against anyone. The New Orleans Saints would give me slight pause, but I’d remain confident. The same can be said of the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Ea-HAHAHAHA just kidding.
I’ll take the Ravens to win-out and topple either the Saints or the Niners in Super Bowl LIV.