Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1, 7-9 ATS) at Baltimore Ravens (8-8, 8-8), 1 p.m
Brolley’s Steelers Stats and Trends
The Steelers beat the Ravens 20-19 as four-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 44 points back in early December.
Pittsburgh has played over the total in four straight games as a road underdog.
It hasn’t always been the prettiest for Najee Harris in recent weeks, but he delivered the goods in the fantasy finals with season-highs in rushing yards (188), YPC (6.7), and FP (29.6). Najee hung 21/71 rushing and 5/36 receiving against the Ravens in Week 13.
Ben Roethlisberger is a long way from being the quarterback he once was, and he proved it in his last game at Heinz Field with a career-worst 2.7 YPA. He completed 24/46 passes for a truly awful 123 yards, one TD, and one INT but he found a way to get one last win in Pittsburgh as he became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl Era to win a game while attempting 40+ passes and throwing for fewer than 150 yards. Big Ben completed 21/31 passes for 236 yards and two TDs against the Ravens in early December.
DIontae Johnson saw a season-high 15 targets last week, which resulted in a season-low 31 receiving yards — he averaged a miserable 1.9 YPT. He still got home for fantasy with eight catches and a touchdown, which gives him 14+ FP in 13 of his 15 games. Diontae ripped the Ravens for 8/105/2 receiving on 11 targets when these teams met in Week 13. He landed on the COVID list on Thursday so he’s looking shaky for Sunday. James Washington would see a bump in snaps if Diontae is unable to play this week.
Chase Claypool is limping to the finish line of a disappointing sophomore season, posting a combined 7/70 receiving on 17 targets over the last three weeks. He’s scored just one touchdown on 109 opportunities after scoring 11 times on 119 opportunities as a rookie. He finished with 2/52 receiving on three targets against the Ravens in Week 13.
Pat Freiermuth managed 5/22 receiving on six targets last week after sitting out Week 16 with a concussion. He hasn’t cleared 40 receiving yards in seven straight games, but he has scored six times in his last nine contests. He finished with 3/26 receiving on four targets with a two-point conversion against the Ravens in early December.
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
The Ravens are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games.
Baltimore is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 home games.
The Ravens have played under the total in their last four games as a favorite.
The Ravens have a slim chance to make the playoffs with a lot of help this week, but it’s such a slim chance that Lamar Jackson will likely have to prove he’s close to full health if he’s going to play against the Steelers this week. Jackson’s ankle wasn’t ready last week as he logged two DNPs to end the week after he tried to practice last Wednesday. Jackson has missed the last three games and his replacements, Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson have each played fairly well in his place. Huntley hung 35.9 FP against the Packers in Week 15 before missing Week 16 with COVID, and he struggled a bit in Week 17 with 12.3 FP in a loss to the Rams. When Lamar has played since Week 9, he’s been pretty miserable, averaging 6.0 YPA with six TDs and eight INTs in his last four full games. He posted 253/1 passing and 8/55 rushing when the Ravens played the Steelers in Week 13, which was his last full game of the season.
Mark Andrews is one catch away from reaching 100 receptions for the first time in his career. He caught all six of his targets for 89 yards last week, which gives him 14+ FP in seven of his last eight games. His one down game in that span came against the Steelers when he posted 4/50 receiving on nine targets in Week 13.
Marquise Brown is 19 yards away from reaching 1000 yards for the season, but he’s stumbling to the finish line after posting 3/28 receiving on eight targets last week. He’s failed to clear 55 receiving yards in seven consecutive games after doing it in six of his first eight contests. Hollywood mustered 5/55 receiving on seven targets against the Steelers in early December.
Rashod Bateman has become a near full-time player with 81% of the snaps or more in the last three weeks. He’s been active with 12+ FP in three of his last four games after he finished with 7/58 receiving on a team-high 10 targets (31% share) in a loss to the Rams in Week 17. Bateman didn’t have a catch on one target in his previous meeting with the Steelers in Week 13.
Devonta Freeman had just 12 combined carries in Weeks 15-16 but he was once again involved last week with 14 carries for an eight-week high of 76 rushing yards. Freeman finished with a season-high 20.7 FP against the Steelers back in Week 13 with 14/52/1 rushing and 5/45 receiving on eight targets.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.1 (2nd)
Plays per game: 65.6 (7th)
Pass: 66.0% (2nd) | Run: 34.0% (31st)
Pace: 29.9 (25th)
Plays per game: 69.3 (1st)
Pass: 62.6% (9th) | Run: 37.4% (24th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
This is one of the three Week 18 games where both sides have playoff aspirations, even though they’re extremely slim. We’ll see both sides play this full-go with their available starters and I have even more good news: This is the second-best game in the pace / plays model with the Steelers and Ravens high volume offenses fueling it.
The Ravens’ defense has collapsed under the weight of all their missing pieces in the secondary and have given up 29 points per game to the Browns, Packers, Bengals, and Rams over the last month. I don’t doubt that the Steelers will continue throwing a ton here – they’re second in pass rate (66%) over the last eight weeks – but how effective they’ll be is in question. Ben Roethlisberger’s arm is burnt toast.
Meanwhile, Tyler Huntley has performed admirably in his relief appearances this year as the Ravens have generated a score (FG or TD) on a respectable 41.8% of their possessions with him under center. I know it’s a late-year, divisional matchup – but there is certainly some scoring appeal here.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Pittsburgh’s chances of making the playoffs stand at 9%. They obviously need to defeat the Ravens, but they also need the Jaguars to take down the Colts, and the Chargers-Raiders cannot end in a tie. The first scenario is entirely possible. The third is entirely likely. The second will end up guaranteeing the Steelers will not sniff the postseason. Even with the current state of the Baltimore secondary, Ben Roethlisberger has reinvented the over-the-hill moniker. It was nothing short of exhausting watching him account for 123 yards with 46 throws last week. In all honesty, I have never seen anything like it. And the fact that Pittsburgh won the game should not sidestep the root of the issue that began with the sideline “coaching” from Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada.
Luckily for the Steelers, Najee Harris was around to grind out some first downs. And grind he did. Harris’ 188 rushing yards should not be confused with a dominating performance. It came in spurts. But he managed to avoid negative yardage on all but two of his 28 carries. The majority of his production (55%) was gained on runs of 10, 13, 14, 30, and a 37-yard TD. Harris only averaged 3.65 YPC on his remaining 23 carries. But the Browns pack a top-eight run defense. Assuming the offense entirely runs through Harris — and it will with Roethlisberger under center — the volume will continue, and we will not have very many chances to roster upwards of 30 carries in Week 18. The Ravens will also be wailing and gnashing their teeth to claim every bit of their 3% chance to earn a playoff bid. But the drum John Harbaugh uses to oil his run defense emptied when his secondary landed on IR. Baltimore is relinquishing 6.0 red zone (RZ) touches/game (fifth-most), 3.25 goal-to-go (GTG) carries/game (fourth-most), and 24.3 FPG to RBs over the last four weeks (11th-most).
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Steelers got a win in what was almost certainly Ben Roethlisberger’s final home start, but he wasn’t exactly prolific.
Ben Roethlisberger last night had the fewest passing yards in NFL history for a QB who threw at least 45 passes in the game.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 4, 2022
Roethlisberger threw 46 passes, completing 24 of them for 123 yards.
And while Pittsburgh still has a shot at the playoffs — they need to beat the Ravens and the Colts need to lose to the Jaguars — Ben might have to quarterback this team without his best receiver.
The Steelers have solid backups for Kendrick Green and Joe Haden, who went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list yesterday, but Diontae Johnson is a significant loss. He's the team's leading WR with 1,100 yards on 100 receptions, and he has 8 rec TDs -- including one vs. Browns on Monday.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 6, 2022
I’d like to see Chase Claypool step up if Diontae Johnson misses, but more than likely the Steelers will give more reps to Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington. Yay?
Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson (ankle) won’t play this week for the Ravens, finishing a disappointing 2021 season on a very disappointing note. It will be another opportunity for backup Tyler Huntley to put some good tape out there, against a Steeler defense that could be missing top CB Joe Haden.
Tyler Huntley said he felt the effects of having COVID in last Sunday's start. He said he still felt it in his chest and didn’t feel the same after a couple of days not eating.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 7, 2022
"I’m feeling way better this week,” Huntley said.
I’m mostly interested to see if rookie WR Rashod Bateman can continue his impressive run to end this season and give me plenty of confidence to draft him in 2022.