Ravens-Steelers COVID-19 postponement further reflects NFL’s challenge for stretch run - Jarrett Bell
With a Ravens outbreak resulting in nine players placed on the COVID-19 list by Wednesday and ESPN reporting another player added on Thursday, the league lived up to its frequent touting of concern for the health and safety of its players and wisely chose common sense over a valuable primetime slot.
The matter also underscores the increasing challenge the NFL continues to face with its mission to stay the course and complete a regular season and playoffs on the like-never-before road to the Super Bowl.
Usually, Thanksgiving signals the start of the stretch run for the NFL’s season with the playoff races better defined.
That much hasn’t changed. The race is on and it’s crowded.
Yet the grim reality is that the postponement of Ravens-Steelers might signal the start of another round of disruptions for the league coinciding with rising COVID cases across the nation.
After Thursday’s two games, the NFL will have 93 more to complete its 256-game regular season. After Monday night’s game, roughly 70% of the regular season will be done.
But brace yourself for a long stretch run in more ways than one, with the contingencies of staging an 18th week of a regular or outright canceling some games clearly part of the playoff puzzle.
As the postponement of the marquee Ravens-Steelers game reminds us, the NFL’s biggest foe remains the one it is hard-pressed to contain.
Ravens Claim Offensive Tackle Jake Rodgers Off Waivers - Clifton Brown
The Ravens have claimed veteran offensive tackle Jake Rodgers off waivers, bolstering their depth at the position.
Rodgers appeared in a combined 19 games over the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, who waived Rodgers on Tuesday. A six-year NFL veteran, Rodgers played 59 snaps for the Broncos in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Rodgers has been with eight different NFL teams including the Ravens, who signed him to the practice squad late in the 2018 season. The experience with Baltimore could help Rodgers acclimate quickly to game action if called on. The 29 year old was a seventh-round pick of the Falcons in 2015 from Eastern Washington.
The addition of Rodgers addresses Baltimore’s depth at tackle. Will Holden was called up from the practice squad for the Ravens’ last game with the Tennessee Titans. D.J. Fluker (35 snaps) and Holden (30 snaps) shared time at right tackle and both played well.
NFL Week 12 game picks: Washington tops Cowboys; Steelers sweep Ravens - Gregg Rosenthal
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Baltimore Ravens 24
The Ravens aren’t that far off. The Week 8 game against Pittsburgh was typical of this snakebitten season: Baltimore dominated up front, only to lose because of turnovers. Now the Ravens are soft up the middle on both sides of the ball because of injuries and missing running backs due to COVID-19, which has the offense looking slow. With Ben Roethlisberger throwing better each week, even a great Lamar Jackson performance may not be enough.
This is a bigger game for the Ravens, who are almost in survival mode now. But the Steelers are pushing forward for an undefeated season and can basically lock up the division with a win here. The Ravens have struggled to throw it, which is not a good thing against the Steelers. The Ravens will fight and keep in this game, but the Steelers will win it late — just like the last meeting.
Pick: Steelers 29, Ravens 23
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens perhaps outplayed the Steelers in their 28-24 loss in Week 8, and they’ll play with desperation as they try to avoid falling behind in a crowded AFC playoff race. But COVID-19 upended their short week of preparation for the Steelers, and they were already dealing with injuries to several essential players. Frustrations have mounted as they’ve failed to make good on promises to finish off opponents.
STEELERS INTANGIBLES: The Steelers are undefeated and starting to create buzz about a perfect season. They know the Ravens are wounded and will attack their rival with the league’s best defense. If the AFC’s current top seed is to overlook an opponent, it probably won’t be a divisional archrival on Thanksgiving night.
PREDICTION: The Ravens need a win to breathe life back into their season, but the Pittsburgh defense is an awfully tough assignment for an offense that’s yet to find itself. Their task became more difficult when positive tests for COVID-19 forced them to cancel practice Tuesday, and their roster was already wearing thin from injuries. Logic says this is not the week for them to get back on track. Steelers 27, Ravens 20.