Everything is on the line for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore on Sunday. The playoffs are on the line against the Ravens, but they cannot control their own destiny. If the Titans beat the Texans in Houston on Sunday then it’s all over for the Steelers. The Titans will clinch a wildcard berth regardless of what happens to the Steelers in Week 17. Tennessee let a glorious opportunity slip away at home this past week, but still control their own destiny. If the Steelers don’t reach the playoffs, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow for their fans, but the fact that they’re even in a spot to compete for the playoffs is impressive. They had to deal with losing Ben Roethlisberger early in the season, and no longer have the services of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
There’s been plenty of drama in Pittsburgh the last couple of years, but Mike Tomlin has managed to ignore most of the noise and get his team in a position to go to the playoffs. The Steelers have bounced between Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges this season under center. Rudolph was selected in the third-round of the 2018 draft, while Hodges was picked up as an undrafted rookie from Samford. It’s hard to expect the same results without Roethlisberger at quarterback.
Rudolph was drafted with the expectation that he could possibly be the replacement for Roethlisberger one day. His audition hasn’t gone well, though, and he’s had to share playing time with an undrafted rookie. Hodges looked serviceable for a few weeks. He was holding in there tough, but then Hodges had to play an elite defense and everything changed. The Bills forced Hodges into mistake after mistake, as he ended the night with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. That had to rattle his confidence and he wasn’t able to recover against the Jets.
Hodges passed for 2 interceptions with no touchdowns last week. He completed just 11 passes for 84 yards in what was an important game. They don’t have any other options at quarterback, though. Rudolph looked better than Hodges last week, having thrown for 129 yards and a touchdown, but he’s out with a shoulder injury. This put the Steelers in a really tough spot, especially if Hodges gets injured. If that occurs, then the Steelers will be forced to go with Paxton Lynch at QB. That would be a big yikes if it comes down to Lynch.
The Steelers catch a break because of the playoff situation for the Ravens. With the Ravens locked into the No. 1 seed, there is no reason for John Harbaugh to play his starters. Lamar Jackson will sit on the bench to give RGIII a chance in the starting role on Sunday. Robert Griffin hasn’t started a game in three years, but has looked good in the brief time he’s played in the preseason. However, that was against backups, and despite the offensive issues for the Steelers, their defense has been firing on all cylinders in 2019. Head below for our free Steelers vs. Ravens pick.
NFL Week 17 – Betting Power Rankings
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens Betting Odds:
Steelers vs. Ravens Prediction:
After a confident looking start for Dev Hodges this season as a rookie, his numbers have tailed off and he’s been finding it difficult to find a rhythm. He has looked like a rookie from Samford more than ever in the last two weeks. Between his showings against the Bills and Jets, Hodges has passed for 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. His numbers have tanked all the way south with 5 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on the season. Hodges heads into the final week of the regular season looking to give his poor 75.8 QBR a boost. His numbers have been abysmal in December, as he’s posted a 66.6 QBR with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Hodges took over for Rudolph against the Ravens earlier in the season. He finished with 68 yards and no touchdowns, but played competently enough to give the Steelers’ confidence to trot him out the next week against the Chargers. His NFL career got off to a pretty nice start, though teams are baiting him into throwing bad passes now. No one had any tape on Hodges at the time of his first appearance and the Ravens did no homework on him, so life was a little easier for him back then.
The secret is out of the bag on him now, though. Buffalo and the Jets were both able to sit back and force him into mistakes. This game may not matter for the Ravens, but they’re still going to want to beat a rival to close out the season. The defense is likely going to be motivated to go out the regular season with a sharp performance against their rival. Fortunately, they get a struggling Hodges and Steelers’ offense who’ve scored just 20 points in total the past two weeks. The Ravens are 5th in the NFL with 30.4 yards against per game. They’ve been especially difficult to run on, having yielded only 93.5 yards per game going into Week 17.
James Conner will not suit up for the Steelers this week in the backfield. Maurkice Pouncey is ruled out as well. That’s a huge blow for a Steelers team that need to find a run game against a stellar Baltimore front. No meaningful yards on the ground is going to mean that Hodges is going to be pressed into firing away downfield. That’s not what the Steelers want, but with the Ravens likely taking the ground away, they’re going to have to attack with Hodges. Playing the field position game is going to be critically important for the Steelers. The defense is going to be required to get the win for the Steelers here with a short-handed offense.
The Steelers’ defense is capable of keeping the offense in games, as we witnessed against the Bills and Jets recently. Pittsburgh are 4th in the NFL with 304.1 yards against per game. They have been solid at defending the pass in 2019. Troy Polamalu may not be lurking in the secondary, but the Steelers have nevertheless been good. Pittsburgh has allowed just 202. Yards per game versus the pass. Not having to deal with Lamar Jackson running downhill will certainly benefit them. Griffin can move around, but not like he used to and not like Lamar can on the option. That should allow the Steelers to keep this a close game. Expect a 17-14 or 20-14 final score for a final score that goes UNDER the total in Baltimore.