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Ravens News 12/1: Non-Starter and more

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game postponed again, to Wednesday, source says - Jamison Hensley

After nine straight days of at least one player testing positive for COVID-19 this week, the Ravens had intended to fly to Pittsburgh on Monday night to avoid a snowstorm. But the game between AFC North rivals was moved for the third time in six days.

For the Ravens, Monday was perhaps the strangest day in what has been one of the most challenging weeks in franchise history. Players had reported to the team facility about a half hour before the scheduled 9:30 a.m. practice when the NFL canceled it to wait for the latest test results, a source said. The Ravens waited most of the day not knowing whether they would practice that afternoon and board a plane to play the NFL’s only undefeated team.

Andrews, Judon, wide receiver Willie Snead IV and cornerback Terrell Bonds were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday afternoon, the team announced. The team also activated four players from the list: Linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, guard D.J. Fluker, cornerback Iman Marshall and defensive tackle Broderick Washington. Marshall will revert to injured reserve.

The Ravens now have 35 players on their 53-man roster after guard Tyre Phillips (shoulder) was activated off injured reserve and cornerback Davontae Harris was officially signed.

Here’s Why NFL Isn’t Canceling Games Due To COVID-19 - Glenn Clark

So why is it happening? Because the NFL has the power to make it so. Nine million people watched the same players they wouldn’t have watched in the XFL line up for the 49ers against Green Bay a few weeks back. If the NFL shield is on the product, Americans will watch. If Tyler Huntley somehow ends up being the Ravens’ starting quarterback in Pittsburgh, Americans will still watch.

The NFL is going on with its show because, simply, it can. Sure, the league rightly pushed the game back from Thanksgiving, but it has decided to prioritize an attempt at keeping its calendar intact (including a Super Bowl date) rather than the legitimacy of the competition. That’s its right.

A number of Ravens fans have asked whether, with two dozen or so players unavailable due to COVID on top of other injury issues the team was dealing with, the team shouldn’t simply choose to forfeit the game because it isn’t worth the injury risk to the healthy players on the team to put them on the field with a group of players who aren’t good enough to be out there.

It is, in a practical sense, an absurd suggestion. As has been covered by any number of sources, if a game is forfeited that means the players aren’t paid. That includes both the healthy and COVID-impacted Ravens players as well as all of the Steelers players. It’s a non-starter.

The last time pro sports leagues took a break, they didn’t return for 3-4 months. Of course we should be asking whether the NFL should be playing right now. But a “momentary pause” just wouldn’t work for the league because there’s no definite date in sight for when, and I repeat, the pandemic will be over.

Steelers vs. Ravens Part 2 will require adjustments from both defenses - K.T. Smith

Defending Pittsburgh’s “playground-style” offense

Offensively for the Steelers, the most important revelation in the month of November has been the no-huddle package. This look was unveiled in the first Baltimore meeting when, trailing 17-7 at the half, the Steelers scrapped their conventional offense and allowed Roethlisberger to essentially call plays at the line of scrimmage.

There are a few reasons that explain the success of the no-huddle. First, the fact the offense does not huddle forces a defense to play fairly vanilla. It’s hard for them to dial up intricate coverages or blitzes with the offense lined up on the ball and capable of snapping it at any moment. As Roethlisberger said after the Baltimore game, the Steelers empty set, combined with their no-huddle tempo, forced the Ravens to simplify their coverage and pass rush, allowing Pittsburgh to protect the quarterback and create favorable match-ups.

Then there is the receiving corps. This is likely the best group, top to bottom, that Roethlisberger has enjoyed during his tenure in Pittsburgh. There is rarely a situation where the offense cannot scheme someone open.

Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Steelers - Clifton Brown

Robert Griffin III vs. Pittsburgh’s secondary

Griffin will be attacking a Pittsburgh defense that is leading the league in turnovers. Without a lot of recent game action under his belt, Griffin must be accurate throwing into tight windows, yet careful enough to avoid mistakes. That’s a tough task going against a secondary led by Fitzpatrick, an All-Pro safety who is one of the game’s top takeaway artists.

Ravens cornerbacks vs. Steelers wide receivers

This matchup is strength against strength. Pittsburgh has one of the NFL’s most talented wide receiver groups led by Claypool, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who all have between 559 and 535 yards receiving. That reflects how evenly Roethlisberger distributes the ball, and how willing he is to throw to any receiver at any time. The Ravens will hope Jimmy Smith (ankle) is healthy enough to play. Smith is having one of his best seasons and can help Pro Bowl corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters matchup against Pittsburgh’s talented wideouts.