Baltimore Ravens (8-3, 5-6 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1, 4-7), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
The Ravens and Steelers are 2-2 outright and ATS in the four games in this series since Lamar Jackson became the QB.
Baltimore is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 games.
The Ravens have gone under the total in four straight road games.
Lamar Jackson is coming off his first four-INT game of his career, and he’s now thrown multiple INTs in four games this season. He also threw for fewer than 200 yards for just the second time this season, and he’s accounted for multiple TDs in just 3-of-10 starts. The Steelers flustered Lamar in their lone matchup last season, limiting him to 208/2 passing and 16/65 rushing with two INTs and two lost fumbles.
Mark Andrews was the target on all four of Lamar’s interceptions last week, but he still came through with 4/65/1 receiving on 10 targets. Andrews has seen 10 targets in three of his last four games and he’s jumped to the top of the position with a 24% target share. Andrews had just 3/32 receiving on six targets in his lone game against the Steelers last year with Lamar in the lineup.
Marquise Brown has turned into an underneath receiver in his last two games with Lamar struggling a bit and with his quad injury potentially limiting him a bit. He posted 14/88 receiving on 23 targets with an aDOT of 8.4 yards while averaging 6.2 YPR in Weeks 10 and 12. He opened the season with an aADOT of 15.0 yards while averaging 14.8 YPR in Weeks 1-9. Hollywood finished with just a three-yard TD catch on two targets in his lone game against the Steelers last year with Lamar in the lineup.
Rashod Bateman continues to play ahead of Sammy Watkins, but the veteran is limiting his opportunities (22 to 18 in routes). Bateman has just 7/60 receiving on 10 targets for 13.0 in the last two weeks after topping 10+ FP in three straight games in Weeks 7-10. The Steelers are giving up the 10th-most FPG (36.9) to WRs this season.
Devonta Freeman has posted season-highs in carries in each of the last two weeks with 16 carries, but he’s averaging just 3.2 YPC over his last three games, which is sadly better than Latavius Murray’s 2.6 YPC average the last two weeks since he returned from injury. Freeman’s four-game streak with 5+ FP as a receiver came to an end with just an eight-yard catch last week. The Steelers are now giving up a generous 4.8 YPC to RBs after Joe Mixon gashed them for 28/165/2 rushing last week.
Brolley’s Steelers Stats and Trends
Pittsburgh is 1-6 ATS in its last seven home games.
The Steelers have played over the total in three of their last four games.
The Steelers looked like a team that was completely exhausted last week in a 41-10 loss to the Bengals. They played three straight games that went down to the final whistle against the Bears (29-27), Lions (16-16 OT), and Chargers (37-41) in Weeks 9-11.
Najee Harris had his worst fantasy performance since his professional debut, mustering just 6.7 FP in Pittsburgh’s abysmal showing against the Bengals last week. He posted season-lows in snap share (58%), carries (8), and rushing yards (23) and he added just 3/14 receiving with the Steelers quickly falling behind by multiple scores. The Ravens smothered Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt last week, limiting the prolific backfield to a combined 15/36 rushing and 2/23 receiving.
Ben Roethlisberger’s play had slightly improved in recent weeks, but it all came crumbling down against the Bengals in Week 12 with three turnovers on his way to 11.5 FP. He’s topped 18+ FP just once in 10 games this season and he hasn’t reached 300+ passing yards since Week 3. The Ravens haven’t allowed an individual QB to top 16+ FP in three straight games.
Diontae Johnson survived Pittsburgh’s grisly performance with 9/95 receiving on 14 targets, which gives him 13+ targets in five of his last six games. He’s scored just once on 72 targets in that six-game stretch, but he’s still posted 11+ FP in all 10 contests this year. The Ravens have been Diontae’s kryptonite, limiting him to 9/52 receiving (5.8 YPR) on 16 targets (3.3 YPT) in two games last season.
Chase Claypool is heating up a bit with 8/175 receiving on 17 targets (21% share) over the last two weeks after managing just 9/92 receiving on 17 targets (17% share) in his previous three games. He’s still found paydirt just once this season after finding the end zone 12 times as a rookie. Claypool posted 11/94/1 receiving on 18 targets in two games in this matchup last season.
Pat Freiermuth landed in the concussion protocol this week, but he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, which bodes well for his availability for Sunday’s game. He went for 4/40/1 receiving on a 76% snap share in his first game since Eric Ebron landed on the IR with a knee injury. Freiermuth has five TDs in his last five games, and the Ravens are giving up the fourth-most TDs per game (.6) to TEs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.2 (31st)
Plays per game: 74.4 (1st)
Pass: 58.3% (24th) | Run: 41.7% (9th)
Pace: 26.7 (8th)
Plays per game: 67.4 (5th)
Pass: 60.2% (18th) | Run: 39.8% (15th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Coming off an ugly SNF performance, the Ravens find themselves in yet another tight divisional battle. The Steelers playoff hopes basically hinge upon winning this game, while the Ravens need a win to remain at least half a game clear of the Bengals.
After Lamar Jackson shredded the Vikings for 34 points out of their bye in Week 9, their offense has since sputtered on a short week on TNF vs. the Dolphins while Lamar threw 4 INTs last week against the Browns en route to putting up just 16 points. However, I’m thinking we see the Ravens get back on track here against this sliding Steelers defense that may be without TJ Watt (COVID). Since their Week 8 bye, Pittsburgh has allowed a TD on 25% of their opponents possessions (eighth-highest rate).
Meanwhile, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger showed signs of life back in Week 9 against the Bears (with 29 points), they put up a season-high 37 points against the Chargers, and Big Ben missed a game with COVID… then they promptly got steam-rolled last week against the Bengals. The one thing we do know for sure is that the passing volume will definitely be there for Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool with the Steelers run game falling off considerably as of late. Big Ben has 44 and 41 passes over the last two games.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The effort submitted by the Steelers last week alone transforms what should be another in a storied history of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry into just another game. Everything fell apart for the Steelers, shedding all semblance of its identity… sans one. The receiving trio of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth continued to showcase their wares. And they managed to do it without Ben Roethlisberger doing anything worth writing home about. Diontae continues to be first-and-second in the pecking order determined by Whig Ben.
The Ravens have stagnated within the middle of the pack with 34.0 FPG offered to opposing WR units (19th-most). Johnson is devoted to spending two-thirds of his game time on the left side of the formation, so he’s likely to see more time across from Anthony Averett. And the former Alabama CB is distributing 1.45 YPCS (17th-most), 0.28 FP/CS (21st-most), 0.24 AY/CS (12th-most), and a 78.3 TPR (20th-best).
It’s not looking great for a Joe Haden return, so Lamar Jackson could be in for a big game. But will it be on the ground or through the air? The Steelers were completely vulnerable in both departments last week.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
While the Ravens won last week, both of these teams are coming off of awful Week 12 performances. In fact, Lamar Jackson’s 4-INT game against the Browns on Sunday night was the worst fantasy performance of his career — just 9.4 fantasy points. And you have to wonder how Jackson’s immune system responded from his constantly being sick. Hey, at least he got the ball to Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown!
It appears teams are finding ways to defend where Lamar has been best in his career so far.
Lamar Jackson's first 37 starts: 10 interceptions thrown over the middle— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) December 1, 2021
Lamar Jackson's 10 starts this season: 10 interceptions thrown over the middle
One of the NFL's most reliable between-the-numbers throwers has suddenly become one of its worst.https://t.co/XHH2Fo8vcX
As for this matchup, the Steelers are reeling defensively, but in two career starts against Pittsburgh, Lamar has 7 turnovers to 3 TD passes, but has run for 135 total yards in those two games.
By the way, Andrews was the target on all four of Lamar’s INTs last week. At least he has a sense of humor about it:
With Joe Haden (foot) out another game, this could be a big spot for Brown. But there’s little else to trust here at the WR position. Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on the Ravens’ bizarre usage of rookie WR Rashod Bateman:
“I always want to play rookie WRs in the back half of the season as they continue to get better each week, especially stud talents like Bateman. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to trust Bateman’s usage just yet because the Ravens keep playing games with their receivers. Once again, Bateman (23 routes), Sammy Watkins (19), and Devin Duvernay (18) all formed a three-man rotation on the Ravens 40 pass plays last week as Watkins continues to block a late-season breakout for the rookie. Until we see Bateman finally elevated as a full-time player, he’s best left on your bench.”
As for the Steelers, they might be the poster child for “do not watch the game, then look at the box score.” It was awful last week against the Bengals, and while RB Najee Harris took one for the team, QB Ben Roethlisberger was able to get the ball in the hands of WRs Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and TE Pat Freiermuth. It just didn’t happen until late.
How about Johnson, by the way? Johnson now has seen double-digit targets in 8-of-10 games and has finished inside of the top-24 PPR scorers in 9-of-10 games. He’s incredible, and Ben just throws him the ball regardless. The Ravens also have a bunch of injuries in the secondary and to EDGE Odafe Oweh (see the report at the top of this page).
Meanwhile, despite coming down with a concussion last week, it looks like Freiermuth will play this week.
Hopefully, Freiermuth does clear protocol, because this is a slam-dunk spot. Here’s Scott Barrett with more:
“Since Week 6, Freiermuth ranks 5th in targets per game (6.8), 4th in XFP/G (12.6), and 3rd in FPG (13.6). He’s seen at least 6 targets in 5 of 6 games over this span. He has 5 touchdowns over his last 5 games, and has also hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 6 games.
Keep in mind, TE Eric Ebron played in 3 of these 6 games, and when he was out, Freiermuth averaged 16.6 FPG, and his route share jumped from 57% to 72%. With Ebron now out for an extended period of time — potentially the remainder of the season — Friermuth needs to be viewed as an every-week mid-range TE1.
Freiermuth is currently in the concussion protocol, but practiced in full on Wednesday. If he plays, he needs to be started as a surefire top-5 option given his recent success and the favorable matchup; the Ravens rank 3rd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing TEs.”