After rallying for a dramatic win to knock off one bitter division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers return home to face another when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. Winners of seven in a row, the Steelers can maintain their tenuous grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC and wrap up the AFC North Division title with a victory.
Pittsburgh will be without a key player on both sides of the ball -- injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and suspended wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster -- as it vies for a season sweep of the Ravens. “We embrace the challenges of playing in this division -- how tough it is and the intentions of those we compete against,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ll be energized by game time on Sunday. We’ll be excited about defending our turf against a very good football team.” Baltimore, which was dominated at home by Pittsburgh 26-9 in Week 4, has won three in a row and holds a one-game edge for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. “It’s a great rivalry,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of facing the Steelers. “We love playing in it. It’s the most physical game we play every single year. It’s always tough coming out of the game in that you’re going to have a lot of bumps and bruises for sure. We have respect for them.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Steelers -5. O/U: 44
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-5): Baltimore has registered three shutouts this season and is allowing an average of 12 points during the three-game winning streak behind an opportunistic defense that leads the league in takeaways (29) and a turnover differential (plus-14). That defense will be missing starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was lost for the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last week’s 44-20 romp over Detroit. The Ravens have the 31st-ranked passing game in the league, but Joe Flacco threw for a season-high 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the team rolled up a season-high point total last week. Running back Alex Collins, who ran for 82 yards on nine carries versus Pittsburgh in Week 4, has rushed for four TDs over the past three games.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (10-2): Pittsburgh will be without Shazier, who leads the team in tackles and interceptions but underwent surgery Wednesday night for a spinal injury suffered in the last-second win at Cincinnati. “We send our thoughts and prayers to Ryan and his family, obviously, but we have a game to prepare for. And we know that’s what Ryan wants,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who struggled in the first meeting against the Ravens but has 10 touchdowns versus three interceptions in his last three games. Running back Le’Veon Bell, the NFL’s leading rusher, gouged Baltimore for 144 yards and two scores on the ground on Oct. 1. Wideout Antonio Brown tops the league in receptions (88) and has six TDs in a streak of three straight 100-yard games.
1. In Roethlisberger’s last five Sunday night home games, he has a 127.8 passer rating with 21 TDs and three interceptions.
2. Ravens LB C.J. Mosley, who had 12 tackles in the first meeting, has suffered a neck stinger in each of his past two games.
3. Steelers K Chris Boswell, named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, has converted 21 of his last 22 FG attempts.
PREDICTION: Steelers 23, Ravens 16