Pittsburgh beat the Ravens at their own game, which was deflating for those hoping a running game and defense can be enough to make real noise in January. Even counting on a Lamar Jackson return, this team looks and feels closer to average than elite at this point.
Squandering Justice Hill’s kick return to the Pittsburgh 40 was the turning point, but the offense disappeared before that. After J.K. Dobbins’ 22-yard run with 3:42 to go in the third quarter, Baltimore’s final 14 plays went for 32 yards, one first down, and a turnover. Yuck.
This defense is pretty good in the way we view defense in today’s NFL, but you can’t suffer five losses in which you held a two-score lead in the second half and expect any relevancy in Ravens history. Pittsburgh scored on three of its last four full drives.
While rushing for 120 yards on 28 carries is hardly a bad night at the office and Dobbins had three runs of 15 or more yards, Baltimore struggled to run consistently against the Steelers’ six-man defensive front. That put an feeble passing game in too many second- and third-and-long spots.
Even with so many offensive line and running back injuries, the 2021 Ravens still averaged a respectable 20 points per game in the five contests in which Tyler Huntley started or played extensively. They’re averaging 9.8 points per game in the five contests he’s played this season.
Baltimore’s approach is a throwback to days when dominant run games and hard-nosed defenses could dictate an entire contest. It’s harder than ever to do so now based on how the game has evolved. The rules are geared toward offenses. Chunk plays have become a staple of creative play-callers looking to minimize reps and maximize effectiveness in numerous spread looks. In contrast, the Ravens want to bash their way to a victory, even when Jackson is in the lineup.
While this style of play helps keep the team in games, the margin for error is also far smaller.
Jackson makes everything more interesting because he’s such a special athlete. Yet he lacks the weapons around him for the Ravens to consistently compete with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and surging Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens aren’t built like the AFC’s best squads. They’ve repeatedly chosen to limit their investment in wide receivers—such as not signing marquee free agents and trading Marquise Brown—and that’s been a detrimental plan.
The inability of general manager Eric DeCosta to place the caliber of weapons to complement a historically good ground game and amazing offensive playmaker at quarterback will continue to be the downfall of the Ravens once they reach the postseason. They simply can’t keep pace with teams that aren’t going to succumb to their bully-ball tactics, as those teams have the type of weapons to make plays that Baltimore doesn’t have.
Jackson is an amazing talent. He can’t carry the entire offense. Nor should he be asked to do so, especially coming off an injury.
Ravens Will Need Major Help At Wide Receiver This Offseason - Todd Karpovich
The Ravens wide receivers managed just two catches for 18 yards in the Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s been an ongoing challenge throughout the season.
Without tight end Mark Andrews, the entire passing game would be sunk.
The passing game faced challenges early in the year and the loss of Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay to season-ending knee injuries created even more adversity.
The Ravens don’t have a wide receiver ranked in the top 75 in the NFL for receptions.
DeMarcus Robinson is ranked 78th with 46 receptions for 434 yards with two touchdowns.
Andrews is ranked 26th with 73 catches for 847 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s certainly earning his recent contract extension.
The Ravens need to add a top-tier free agent or make a trade for more talent at wide receiver next season.
It has to be one of the team’s top priorities.
The Ravens-Bengals Week 18 matchup will be played as scheduled, though a time has still yet to be announced.
The “Monday Night Football” game between the Buffalo Bills and Bengals will not be resumed this week after it was suspended and postponed following Damar Hamlin’s horrible cardiac arrest.
The league announced that it has made no decision regarding the possible resumption of that game at a later date, but it definitely won’t be this week.
That means if the Ravens beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, Baltimore will not be crowned the AFC North champion that day. The Ravens would have an 11-6 record while the Bengals would be 11-5.
Only if the Bengals-Bills game were to be resumed, and the Bengals lose (they were winning 7-3 with 6:12 left in the first quarter at the time), would the Ravens be AFC North champions.
NFL picks, predictions against the spread Week 18 - Vinnie Iyer
Ravens at Bengals
The Ravens just can’t find enough offense without Lamar Jackson beyond Mark Andrews and the running game. The Bengals will be working to gain better momentum going into their AFC championship repeat run. There’s a chance this is the rematch for the first round of the playoffs, so Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo must be a bit wary of what they plan to do a third time with Joe Burrow and the defense.
Pick: Bengals win 24-17