Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9: 4 stats to know - Aaron Kasinitz
Since the start of the 2008 season, 15 of 21 regular-season games between the Ravens and Steelers have been decided by four points or fewer
These rivalry games always seem to go down to the wire. Over this stretch, which dates back to coach John Harbaugh’s first season in Baltimore, no two teams have played as many nail-biters as the Ravens and Steelers. Pittsburgh has won eight of the games decided by four points or fewer, while Baltimore has won seven.
Why it matters Sunday
The Ravens have struggled in close games of late, losing all six of their contests (including one against the Steelers) decided by four points or fewer since the start of the 2017 season. So if Baltimore and Pittsburgh careen toward a tight finish Sunday as they so often do, Harbaugh’s team will need to halt its recent trend to earn a key victory.
Turnovers usually provide the winning edge in close games. The Steelers have a minus-3 turnover differential this season while the Ravens are minus-4.
Projected final win totals for 2018: Rams, Chiefs riding high - Cynthia Frelund
9. RAVENS: 9.0 wins
Current record: 4-4. Projected playoff percentage: 57.9.
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Sunday: 1 p.m. ET, CBS | Point spread: BAL by 3 | Insiders pick: PIT (3/3)
The Steelers won at Baltimore last season to end a four-game road losing streak against the Ravens. All three insiders are taking Pittsburgh to make it two in a row after Baltimore’s Week 8 defeat at Carolina gave the Ravens a 1-3 record in their past four games.
“Baltimore won the first meeting in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh is a different team now,” one of the insiders said. “They are going to be contenders in the playoffs.”
The Steelers are the team playing without their starting running back, but the Ravens are the team struggling to get much going in the run game.
Pittsburgh’s James Conner is tied with Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott for the NFL lead with 15 rushes gaining at least 12 yards. That total matches what 2017 Steelers starter Le’Veon Bell had through seven games last season. Conner’s seven-game totals beat Bell’s from last season in rushing touchdowns, yards per carry and rushing success rate.
“I think Pittsburgh has found their groove and identity on both sides of the ball right now,” another insider said. “They are still susceptible on the back end at times, but their front is really good from a pressure perspective. Baltimore just isn’t running it as well. Maybe they try to figure out a way to get Lamar Jackson on the field more to spice up the run game.”
The Ravens may not be able to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s vulnerable pass defense if their best blockers are unable to suit up. Tackles Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst missed practice for the second consecutive day on Thursday with ankle and back injuries, respectively.
Ravens DC: Stats say Steelers better sans Le’Veon Bell - Kevin Patra
”There are a lot of stats [since 2015] that the Steelers are actually better without him,” Martindale said Thursday, via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “That might be why he’s riding a jet ski down in Miami right now.”
Conner has generated four games with 110-plus rushing yards and two-plus rushing TD this season, the most such games in a single season for the Steelers since 1950. Bell only has three such games in his career.
As such, the Steelers aren’t fretting about Bell’s return. Neither is Martindale.
Asked if he spent time wondering whether Bell could show up and play this week, the Ravens DC retorted:
”What if Terry Bradshaw wants to come back and Lynn Swann? Oh [s---],” Martindale said.
With or without Bell, the Ravens top rated defense will meet the Steelers top-5 offense on Sunday.