The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to continue their recent mastery over the Baltimore Ravens when the two AFC North rivals meet in the Steel City on Sunday.
The Steelers (2-2) have won five of the past six matchups between the teams and will be looking to bounce back from this season’s second defeat of more than 20 points.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett was cleared Friday to play against the Ravens (3-1) despite sustaining a bone bruise in his left knee during last weekend’s 30-6 loss to the host Houston Texans.
“I’m confident with the plan that we have by Sunday,” Pickett told reporters at midweek. “I took what I needed to take in terms of what they were telling me, the doctors and the trainers we have here. And as we go through the week, it’ll probably go based off of what they say.”
Pittsburgh needs more than a healthy Pickett. It needs a much-improved showing to knock off the Ravens, who are third in total defense (260.8 yards allowed per game) and tied for third in scoring defense (14.5 points allowed per game).
The Steelers are 29th in total offense (263 yards per game) and tied for 29th in scoring (15.5 points per game). Two of their six touchdowns were scored by linebackers — one apiece from Alex Highsmith (pick-six) and T.J. Watt (fumble return).
Pickett has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 803 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. The sluggishness of the offense has sparked criticism of the unit and outsider heat on offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris is tired of hearing the chatter.
“At the end of the day, we got to do what we have to do,” Harris said. “I see everybody talking about this coaching stuff about play calling. Do y’all know how football works? Coaches only can coach, but we got to execute the plays. We’re not trying to point the finger at all.”
The Ravens are flying high after posting a 28-3 win over the host Cleveland Browns last week.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to tight end Mark Andrews. One of Jackson’s TD passes was a pinpoint throw in the back corner of the right end zone in which Andrews leaped to make the catch.
“I’ll say what I always said, ‘Lamar is an accurate quarterback,'” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “He always has been, to my eyes, and I’ll just take the one throw to Mark for the touchdown in the corner of the end zone. That’s as good a throw that you’re ever going to see in a football game from a quarterback.”
Jackson has completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 794 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also has rushed for four scores.
“He’s able to do so many other things that other quarterbacks can’t do,” Andrews said. “That’s a beautiful thing. Lamar Jackson’s second to none.”
Stopping Jackson will be quite a chore for the Steelers. Though Watt is tied for the NFL lead with six sacks, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in total defense (403.0) and 23rd in scoring defense (25.0).
Baltimore could have receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring) back on the field. Beckham is questionable after missing the past two games. Bateman, who missed one game, was removed from the injury report on Friday.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was a full practice participant on Friday for the first time since undergoing foot surgery in mid-August. He is listed as questionable.
Standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and right tackle Morgan Moses (shoulder) are doubtful, while linebacker Odafe Oweh (ankle) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shoulder) were ruled out. Running backs Justice Hill (foot/hamstring) and Keaton Mitchell (shoulder) are questionable.
The Steelers will be without tight end Pat Freiermuth due to a hamstring injury. Highsmith (groin) was listed as questionable, while punter Pressley Harvin III (right hamstring), defensive end DeMarvin Leal (concussion) and offensive linemen Dan Moore Jr. (knee) and James Daniels (groin) all were ruled out.