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Preston’s preview: Key matchup, what’s at stake in Sunday’s Ravens-Steelers regular-season finale

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about their win over the Cleveland Browns, capturing the first seed bye in the NFL playoffs.

Key matchup

Steelers QB Devlin Hodges vs. Ravens DC Don Martindale: Hodges, a rookie, almost led the Steelers to an upset overtime victory early in the season but the Ravens won, 26-23, on a 46-yard field goal from Justin Tucker with 5 minutes and 26 seconds left in overtime. Back then Martindale, the Ravens second-year defensive coordinator, knew little about Hodges, who replaced injured starter Mason Rudolph early in the third quarter. Hodges seemed to catch the Ravens off guard with his ability to move in the pocket. But there has been more film on Hodges now and Martindale will hit him with a lot of different fronts, blitzes and pressures Sunday. Hodges has struggled lately. For the season, he has completed 91 of 135 passes for 968 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 75.8 and a completion percentage of 67.4.

What’s at stake

For the Ravens, it’s a pride issue. They are trying to win a franchise record 12 straight games. They need 93 yards rushing to set an NFL single-season record, currently held by the 1978 New England Patriots (3,165 yards). The Ravens are also on pace to become the first team to average 200 passing and 200 rushing yards in a season. Meanwhile, the Steelers are trying to get into the postseason as a wild card team. If Pittsburgh beats Baltimore and the Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans, then the Steelers get in the playoffs. If the Titans win, then the Steelers are eliminated from the postseason regardless if they beat the Ravens.

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Under the radar

There have been rumors about this being the last season for Mike Tomlin as Pittsburgh’s head coach because the Steelers are on the verge of not making it to the playoffs for the second straight year. Tomlin has been with the Steelers since 2007 and has never had a losing season. Despite an average showing in 2019, Tomlin should be the coach of the year playing without a star player at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions. It’s hard to win in the NFL, even harder without a top-skilled player on offense. If the Steelers win Sunday and end up getting into the playoffs, it will be a major achievement. They just can’t get embarrassed Sunday by the Ravens, who are playing without three major starters on offense and two on defense. If that happens, it will show just how far Pittsburgh has dropped behind the Ravens during the past two seasons.

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