It’s a big AFC North matchup on Saturday... well, for the Steelers at least. Their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, have already clinched the top seed in the AFC with the postseason just around the corner. Although the Steelers are competing to keep their playoff hopes alive, Baltimore has nothing to play for but divisional malice and pride. They’ll be resting several key starters against Pittsburgh to play it safe, but still expect there to be enough talent on the field for the Ravens tomorrow to make it a tense matchup between the divisional rivals.
Here are five players on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster to keep your eye on heading into Week 18.
QB Tyler Huntley
The Ravens won’t be playing starting quarterback Lamar Jackson on Saturday. It’s a big break for Pittsburgh, as despite their past success against Jackson, there’s no denying that the Ravens’ quarterback is playing at an MVP level at the moment. In his stead, Baltimore will be starting Tyler Huntley, one of the better backups in the league who was even a surprise Pro-Bowler in 2022.
However, that’s about where the impressive stats end. Huntley is a backup, after all. He has a painfully average 7/7 career touchdown/interception ratio and a 1-2 record in his career starts against the Steelers. In each of those three games, the winning team has scored 16 points; Huntley vs. the Steelers is historically not an offensive showcase. Although he’s certainly not the talent that Lamar Jackson is, Huntley profiles similarly as a mobile quarterback which helps the Ravens gameplan as they usually would with him in the lineup. He’s a threat to make plays, but the Steelers have proven they can contain in him the past, making this an optimistic matchup for the black and gold.
WR Rashod Bateman
With Odell Beckham Jr. listed as out and Zay Flowers questionable for Saturday, expect Rashod Bateman to lead the Ravens’ receiving core against the Steelers. The former first-round pick has never developed into the player Baltimore drafted him to be, struggling with drops and injuries throughout his young career. But he still has loads of potential, and Saturday’s game will be his first big opportunity of the season.
Bateman’s biggest game of the year came last week against Miami, where he hauled in four passes for 54 yards. He’s an athletic target who ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at his pro day coming out of college. He has the skillset of a deep threat and he’s shown a knack for contested catches throughout his career. The Ravens will be turning to several backups on their roster to step up in Week 18, and Bateman will be one of the most notable names among them.
TE Isaiah Likely
When the Ravens lost Mark Andrews, one of the best receiving tight ends in football, for the season earlier this year, it was a massive blow for their offense. But his backup, second-year tight end Isaiah Likely, has stepped up in a massive way this season. He’s gained 40 receiving yards or more in each of his last five games, with four touchdowns over that span. He’s proven to be an explosive playmaker as well, making this one-handed-catch-and-run touchdown against the Dolphins last week:
Likely may not see as much playing time in Week 18 as he usually gets if the Ravens try to give all of their starters some rest, but when he is on the field, he’ll be the biggest offensive threat the Steelers defense faces. Pittsburgh has struggled containing tight ends all season, and Likely is currently playing like one of the NFL’s best.
RB Justice Hill
The Ravens lost their two best running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Keaton Mitchell to season-ending injuries this year, but their rushing attack has remained one of the NFL’s best partially due to the team’s incredible depth at the position (let’s give some love to their offensive line as well). Reserve running back Justice Hill has stepped into the spotlight as of late as the co-starter alongside Gus Edwards. Hill is the lightning to Edwards’ thunder, averaging 4.6 yards per carry to go along with his 4.4-second 40-yard dash time.
Hill had a productive game last week against Miami, rushing for 48 yards to go along with 64 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches. He also had a 78-yard kickoff return. Hill is only one part of a Ravens running back rotation of himself, Edwards, Melvin Gordon and possibly even Dalvin Cook, but he’s the most explosive of the four and a matchup nightmare coming out of the backfield against a banged-up Steelers linebacker core.
S Geno Stone
You’ve probably noticed a glaring lack of Ravens defenders on this list. That’s no disrespect to a Baltimore unit that has been fantastic this year and is jam-packed with stars on every level. However, the majority of those stars are veterans and/or dealing with some injuries, and with the rotational nature of NFL defenses and the fact that Baltimore is expected to rest most of their starters Week 18, it’s hard to pinpoint big names on their defense that will be significant factors against Pittsburgh. That being said, if the likes of Roquan Smith, Kyle Hamilton, Justin Madubuike, or some other defensive star who hasn’t been officially ruled out steps onto the field on Saturday, they will undoubtedly be worth keeping an eye on.
However, safety Geno Stone is one of the few Ravens defensive standouts who may still see a lot of playing time against the Steelers. The Baltimore secondary has a slew of injuries entering the game, and Stone is still technically listed as a backup despite his major contributions to his team this year. But don’t let that status fool you. Stone ranks second in the NFL in interceptions this year with a whopping seven. He’s also recorded 68 total tackles and nine passes defensed. He’s established himself as an impact defender and a ballhawk this year who should pose an interesting matchup for Steelers’ starting quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has yet to throw an interception this season.
Most Steelers fans know this already, but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security due to Baltimore’s missing starters Week 18. Ravens/Steelers matchups are hardly ever gimmes. Keep in mind that the Ravens, led by quarterback Robert Griffin III and resting most of their starters at the end of the 2019 season, defeated the Steelers by 18. Anything could happen on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.