Lamar Jackson’s status is more important than anything that happened Sunday night.
We’ve heard precious few details on how the Ravens’ most important player is doing beyond broad assertions from Harbaugh and teammates that he’s working hard to get back from the knee injury that has sidelined him since Week 13.
The Ravens secured a playoff berth without Jackson, but it’s difficult to envision them stringing together multiple postseason wins without the big-play component he, and he alone, gives them. His absence will become a significantly more urgent problem if it extends into this week.
It’s not so much that the Ravens need Jackson to play in their regular-season finale against the Bengals. If they have to proceed as a No. 6 seed, so be it. But he has not done anything to prepare for a football game in a month. Is he going to be magically ready for the Ravens’ playoff opener if he does not practice until four days before that game? That would be a difficult ask, even for an athlete as sublime as Jackson. The Ravens, and he, need to gain a sense of where he stands sooner rather than later.
None of this is meant to shame Jackson. If his knee was healthy, he would be out there. But time is running short.
The Ravens’ wide receivers were virtually nonexistent.
The Ravens had some success with their ground game, with J.K. Dobbins rushing 17 times for 93 yards, and with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley running the show, they lean heavily on their run-first approach.
But at some point, with Huntley or with Lamar Jackson whenever he returns, they need to get at least minimal contributions from wide receivers. In this game, the Ravens’ receivers combined for a total of two catches and 18 yards. The Steelers didn’t fear them at all, and often added another defensive lineman in the box to stop the run.
The Ravens often only have one wide receiver on the field; starter Sammy Watkins was not targeted all night, and Demarcus Robinson and DeSean Jackson each had one catch for 9 yards. That is the sum total of all contributions from Ravens wide receivers.
When the Ravens got the ball back with 56 seconds left, they took the field with multiple tight ends, and Huntley’s first pass was a short checkdown to tight end Isaiah Likely that fell incomplete. Their final possession ended when Huntley, rolling out, threw back across the middle and was intercepted.
The Steelers aren’t exactly a high-octane offense, ranking No. 24 in passing coming into the game with a rookie quarterback who is slowly hitting his stride, but Kenny Pickett — who missed most of the Dec. 4 Ravens-Steelers game while in the concussion protocol — connected on a couple of big throws with rookie receiver George Pickens (2-29) and receiver Steven Sims (3-34) on the game-winning drive. Sims had a huge 28-yard catch, the longest pass play of the game.
The Ravens know that their formula for now involves controlling the game on the ground, but the complete absence of any impact from wide receivers is glaring, even moreso in the final minute when the game is on the line.
Ravens vs. Steelers takeaways: Pittsburgh stays alive in playoff race thanks to Kenny Pickett’s late heroics - Bryan DeArdo
Why the Ravens lost
Baltimore’s defense was unable to make a game-changing play during the Steelers’ last two possessions. The pass rush was a nonfactor at that point in the game, while Baltimore’s secondary struggled to contain Pickett and the Steelers’ passing attack. Throughout the night, Baltimore’s defense was also unable to slow down the Steelers’ duo of Harris and Warren, who combined to run for 187 yards on 34 carries.
On offense, the Ravens largely leaned on Andrews and J.K. Dobbins. While both players were largely effective, Baltimore’s lack of offensive diversity contributed to the Ravens scoring just three points during the game’s final 30 minutes. It also contributed to the Ravens converting on less than half of their dozen third-down situations.
After rushing for 99 yards against the Falcons last week, the “Gus Bus” took a back seat versus the Steelers. Edwards had just nine snaps to Dobbins’ 26, and Edwards ran just three times (for two yards) compared to 17 carries for 93 yards by Dobbins. The Ravens’ two-headed running back monster shrunk to one with Dobbins running well.
Safety Chuck Clark led the Ravens’ defenders with a PFF grade of 80.6. It’s the second straight week that Clark has held the top mark, as he had a 85.4 grade against Atlanta. Clark led the Ravens with 10 tackles against the Steelers and gave up just one catch for two yards in passes that came his way, per PFF. Clark broke up one deep third-down pass.
Right tackle Morgan Moses left the game with a biceps injury, forcing Patrick Mekari into action for 16 snaps. Mekari posted the offense’s second-highest grade (65.6).
Making his NFL debut, rookie tight end Charlie Kolar got two offensive snaps and one on special teams.
Defensive Notes vs Steelers Week 17 2022 - Ken McKusick
Odafe had one of his best games of the season despite the collapse. He provided pressure and was one of the only defenders not named among the key run blocks.
Brent had difficulty against the run which I did not restate here, but he made some key plays in a season-high 29 snaps.
As with most other defenders he had mentions among the run plays. However, he also had 2 drive-ending PDs on plays where the pass rush allowed ATS.
NFL Week 17 Recap: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Nathan Janke
Ravens rely on running backs and tight ends: The Ravens use fewer wide receivers per play than most teams, but they pushed this to a bigger extreme tonight.
Prior to Week 17, the Ravens had run 124 snaps out of 11 personnel. The league average was 622 snaps.
On the flip side, they had run 317 plays out of 22 personnel, while the league average was just 34.
Tonight they ran three plays out of 11 personnel and 27 snaps out of 22 personnel.
Demarcus Robinson was the only wide receiver to be on the field for over half of his team’s offensive snaps. He caught one pass for 9 yards.
In all, 12 of the Ravens’ 14 completions went to tight ends, the most notable resulting in Isaiah Likely‘s third touchdown of the season.
Ideally, the Ravens have a healthy Rashod Bateman next season and can upgrade at the other receiver spot to add a new dynamic to their offense.