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Ravens News 1/8: Top Priority

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

Ravens achieve primary goal despite falling to Steelers in season finale

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

Most importantly, the Ravens (13-4) believe they got out of the game without losing any players for their postseason opener in two weeks. Let’s face it: that was the biggest priority for a Baltimore team that had already clinched the AFC North title, the top seed in the conference and a first-round bye.

“I think it looks like we got through it OK,” Harbaugh said. “Some of them looked a little tough. Right now, it looks like we’d have all those guys back for the playoff week for the divisional game.”

There were some anxious moments. Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh jogged gingerly to the sideline during the Steelers’ second offensive possession with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Oweh wore a wide smile as he spoke to Harbaugh in front of his locker after the game.

Safety Geno Stone, who leads the AFC in interceptions, and reserve linebacker and core special-teamer Del’Shawn Phillips got hurt on the same third-quarter play with Phillips grabbing at his left shoulder and Stone clutching his left knee. Stone walked out of the locker room with only a slight limp. Defensive end Brent Urban was later evaluated for a concussion, but the veteran does have time to go through the necessary steps to get cleared.

Report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 17-10 loss to Steelers in regular-season finale

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun

Secondary

The Ravens turned in a solid effort despite playing without cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Kyle Hamilton. Reserve safety Geno Stone also left in the third quarter with a knee injury. This group also got some help from the weather because the Steelers played small ball and stayed with the short passes, but the Ravens will struggle if Rock Ya-Sin stays at cornerback. Starting safety Marcus Williams is also struggling and doesn’t show much speed. He made a poor jump on the ball on that 71-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson over the middle early in the fourth quarter. That was basically the only busted coverage by the Ravens. Grade: B+

Coaching

The Ravens played hard and were in the game most of the time, and that’s pretty much anyone can ask from a team that didn’t play without their starting quarterback and two best defenders. The best news was that the Ravens came out of the game without any major injuries. Still, there were problems with pass protection and the Ravens once again struggled to defend the run. Those are minor things, but they could become big in the postseason. Grade: B

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Steelers Loss

Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

Isaiah Likely Is Blowing Up Heading Into the Postseason

Likely caught his fifth touchdown pass in the last six games, continuing to raise his game after taking over as the starting tight end since Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews’ ankle injury.

In the box score, Likely will be given credit for a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley. But in reality, it was Likely’s athleticism that made the play. He caught Huntley’s pass at about the 10-yard line, and two Steelers still had a chance to tackle him. No problem. Likely ran through an attempted tackle by Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace, then Likely used a stiff arm to shed veteran defensive back Patrick Peterson and dove into the end zone.

Likely could be a key X-factor in the playoffs and his prowess in the red zone has been particularly impressive. Flowers and Beckham will get plenty of attention from any defense the Ravens face, and Likely is feasting on one-on-one coverage and gaining confidence by the week.

“My main thing is to be on the same page with Lamar and just make sure we are together,” Likely said.

Likely also had a message for those who are concerned about the Ravens getting rusty during their bye week.

“Turn on (next) Sunday and tell us how rusty we’ll be,” Likely said.

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 17-10 Loss To The Steelers

Bo Smolka, PressBox

Trenton Simpson showed he’ll be one to watch in 2024.

The Ravens drafted inside linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round out of Clemson this year, and the prevailing view was that he would be the heir apparent to Patrick Queen. The Ravens had already signed Roquan Smith to a long-term extension, lessening the likelihood they would also re-sign Queen after his rookie deal expires this season.

Both Smith and Queen played at a Pro Bowl level this season, though, leaving Simpson little chance to make an impact. In the first 16 games, Simpson had just two tackles on defense, playing a total of 20 defensive snaps across four games.

In this game, though, Simpson took over at inside linebacker early in the second half when Queen went out, and then he played the remainder of the game alongside Queen after Del’Shawn Phillips suffered a shoulder injury.

Midway through the third quarter, Simpson roared through a gap on the left side of the line and hammered Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph for Simpson’s first career sack. Later, with the Steelers driving deep in Ravens territory, Simpson sniffed out a jet sweep run by Jaylen Warren and dropped him for a 5-yard loss.

Simpson finished with five tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.

“Couldn’t be happier for him,” Queen said, adding with a grin that Simpson might even be faster than him. “I just love the guy. Great player. … His name is definitely going to be hot for the rest of his time [in Baltimore].”

Simpson said every time he came to the sideline, Smith was there to offer tips about Steelers tendencies and formations. “He definitely played a huge role in my success today.”

The Ravens’ regular season is over. Their playoff opener is 2 weeks away. So what’s next?

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Patrick Queen was not on the 2019 Ravens team that the 2023 Ravens will hear about for the next two weeks. The Pro Bowl inside linebacker cannot compare these Ravens’ plans as the AFC’s No. 1 seed to those Ravens’ plans. All he knows is this team’s path.

“Rest up, practice, get sharp, do what we have to do to get healthy, find out who we play” in the playoffs, he said Saturday. “And then go up there and kick their ass, simple as that.”

“It’ll be preparation for the postseason, and that will be what we’ll do,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll try to push it back a little bit to have some sort of a rhythm, as if we’re playing a game — say, on Saturday — kind of that idea. Then we’ll have our normal game week going into the divisional game.”