Instead of homework, job, practice, or chores, Steelers fans get to finish the school day and watch a live game against a COVID-reduced version of the third place Baltimore Ravens. Like seemingly everything else in 2020, these Ravens are anything but their normal selves. Many have dubbed this game “Steelers vs Ravens JV,” and while that term could be taken as somewhat insulting, it is actually quite accurate. The Ravens are without, just to name a few, their starting quarterback, both of their starting running backs, their starting fullback, and their starting tight end. This game is shaping up to have the most inactive rostered players in the history of the NFL, with 19 Ravens on the non-injury/COVID list alone.
Both the Ravens and the Steelers are missing quite a few crucial pieces. Obviously, the most notable player out for the game is the 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. Jackson has become the face of the Ravens franchise, and they announced last Friday that Jackson would not be able to play if the game was to be postponed to Sunday or any other time in the near future. Other than Jackson, the Ravens are without multiple players who made the 2019 Pro Bowl. This includes players such as RB Mark Ingram II, Tight end Mark Andrews, OLB Matthew Judon, and others. On top of this, Pro Bowl Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley was injured the last time the two teams met, and is still out with an ankle injury.
For the Steelers, James Connor and Stephon Tuitt headline their notable inactive players, both testing positive for COVID. Other than that, the only other inactives for the Steelers are all backups, with the exception of Jaylen Samuels, who could have gotten a few carries in Conner’s absence. Although losing Tuitt and Conner is big, the Steelers are basically at full health, in stark contrast to the situation in Baltimore.
Not much needs to be said about how this game will most likely go. The Ravens are missing 9 of their 12 2019 Pro Bowlers, and it will show. Without their best player at literally every single offensive position, expect the Ravens to have a hard time getting really anything going offensively, especially against an unforgiving Steelers defense that is ranked within the top 3 in almost every single statistical category.
Steelers fans should hope for, and honestly expect, a big win in this game. The likelihood that the Ravens will be able to put up a good fight in this game will rely heavily on their defense. If the Steelers struggle to perform offensively, whether it be from Connor’s absence affecting the run game, Pouncey’s absence affecting the O-Line play, or an off game from Big Ben, there is a chance that this game is competitive as a low scoring affair. However, if the Steelers can perform offensively, there should be no reason this game is close.
Next up is a rescheduled MNF game against the surprising Washington Football Team. The Washington Football Team, should they stay healthy between now and next week, have sort of burst onto the scene as the leader of the pack in the abysmal NFC East. Their offensive game has improved as the season has gone on, with rookie running back Antonio Gibson making a name for himself, and veteran Alex Smith coming back into his own after being out for 2 full years.
With a defense led by standout rookie Chase Young, this team has surprised many with its ability to compete only one year after being the worst team in the league. Although their record might not show that they are a serious threat, they could surprise the Steelers if they don’t come ready to play.
As far as the COVID situation, I would expect Pouncey, Tuitt, and Conner to all be ready by the Washington game. However, the biggest question that will follow the game is this: what if the Steelers have an outbreak after playing a team that has had one of their own? This question cannot be answered definitively just yet, Steelers fans will just have to hope that their team will stay at relatively full health for the games to come.