(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
As HC Mike Tomlin would say, “[The Steelers] are back in the kitchen” this week in
another big AFC North matchup. This week, the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers will be tasked with taking down QB Lamar Jackson and the defending division champs in the Baltimore Ravens. Defenses will presumably dictate the outcome of this game, but it will be important to keep an eye on what both offenses can do to manufacture more points than their counterpart. In rivalries such as these, individual standout performances shine above all the rest. This is the week that one can prove their worth and perform in the midst of extreme amounts of diversity.
Listed below are three bold predictions for Sunday’s game, and which team prevails this week just might be up to whether these predictions become reality.
1. Eric Ebron leads Steelers in Receptions
Although he has not put up the stat line that many may have expected him to, Eric Ebron
has been a valuable 3rd down target for QB Ben Roethlisberger. Ebron had his season-high in receptions last week as he hauled in 6 passes for 50 yards, and he should be able
to match that today. Baltimore has 2 trustworthy cornerbacks in Marlon Humphrey and
Marcus Peters. HC John Harbaugh will be comfortable playing a lot of man coverage
with them on the outside of the field, and they have been great in doing so to date. Just as
well, they trust CB Jimmy Smith to take care of business in the slot. Pittsburgh has the
personnel to match them, but the real mismatch comes to the big-bodied Ebron against
the Baltimore linebackers and safeties. Ebron is fast enough to burn by the Ravens
linebackers, but also big enough to out will safeties such as Chuck Clark and DeShon
Elliot. In a game where 3rd downs will be key, look for Roethlisberger to find Ebron in a
mismatch all game.
2. Steelers defense sacks QB Lamar Jackson 4 times on the day
It is no secret that one of the largest contributors to Pittsburgh’s 6-0 record is their front
seven. They have been rushing the passer and stopping the run at amazing rates. Look
for that trend to continue on Sunday as they are facing a team that has not exactly kept
their quarterback clean this season. Jackson has been sacked 15 times through 6 games
for the Ravens this year tied for eighth-most in the league. He and his offensive line will
face their fiercest opponent yet, and they will struggle to protect Jackson for all 4
quarters. Expect LBs Bud Dupree and T.J Watt to win their matchups of the edge and
contain the dangerous QB, and DLs Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt to bring him to the
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick tallies yet another defensive touchdown
This prediction stems from the fact that the Ravens offensive line is facing an
overwhelming front seven, and a QB who has made some mistakes when pressured this
year. According to NFL’s “Next Gen Stats”, Lamar Jackson has only completed 59% of
his passes when the opposing defense dials up a blitz, and he has thrown just 2
touchdowns. In addition, he has tallied 2 interceptions when his opponent sends extra
men at him. Look for the Steelers to try and force their hand against Jackson as they will
look to create offense out of their defense and look specifically for S Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The young safety has had a nose for the ball throughout his 3-year career. Sunday he will
have the chance to add to his already impressive resume of “splash plays” on defense by
scoring his 4th career touchdown. Look for the front seven to wreak havoc on Jackson,
then Fitzpatrick to exploit the mistakes that ensue.