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Ravens vs. Steelers scouting report for Week 17: Who has the edge?

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Lamar Jackson ranks third in the NFL in passer rating at 113.3 after another sensational performance Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Jackson said he wanted to start against the Steelers, but the Ravens won’t risk their most important player in a game with no impact on their playoff seeding. That means Robert Griffin III will start an NFL game for the first time since 2016. The Ravens have gushed about Griffin’s work as a backup and as the player who imitates opposing quarterbacks in practice. But it’s hard to know what Griffin will do in live action against one of the NFL’s top defensive fronts, especially if the Ravens also rest their top pass catchers, tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise Brown, and Pro Bowl linemen Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda. It’s also possible offensive coordinator Greg Roman will run a conservative game plan in hopes of keeping his backup quarterback out of harm’s way. Griffin has completed 15 of 25 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown in mop-up duty this season.

STEELERS PASSING GAME: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin juggled his quarterbacks in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets, pulling Devlin Hodges in favor of Mason Rudolph, only to go back to Hodges after Rudolph suffered a shoulder injury. Regardless of which quarterback they’ve used, the Steelers have struggled to throw effectively in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger. They rank 31st in the league in passing and 25th in yards per attempt and have not thrown for more than 200 yards in a game since Week 10. Their best wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster returned from a four-week absence to catch two passes against the Jets. With Smith-Schuster hurt, James Washington and Diontae Johnson have been the Steelers’ most productive pass catchers, combining for 1,361 receiving yards. Pittsburgh also throws frequently to running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, who’ve combined for 80 catches on 93 targets.

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EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens need 93 rushing yards to set the all-time team record, but they’ll have to do it without their top two runners, Jackson and Mark Ingram II. Ingram crossed 1,000 yards for the season against Cleveland but suffered a late-game calf injury. Jackson extended his single-season record for a quarterback to 1,206 yards. In their absence, expect running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to receive season-high workloads. The powerful Edwards has been an excellent third option for the Ravens with 581 yards and a 5.2 per-carry average. Hill has rushed for 186 yards on 48 carries in his rookie season. Griffin is also a threat to run.

STEELERS RUNNING GAME: Pittsburgh also has not run effectively in recent weeks, combining for 126 yards in consecutive losses to the Buffalo Bills and Jets. Conner is the Steelers’ leading rusher but has battled health woes throughout the second half of the season and left the Jets game with a thigh injury. Without him, the Steelers split handoffs among Benny Snell Jr., Kerrith Whyte Jr. and Samuels, none of whom managed a gain of longer than 7 yards. The Steelers rank 26th in rushing and 28th in yards per carry despite playing behind one of the league’s most accomplished offensive lines.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens held the league’s leading rusher, Nick Chubb, to 45 yards on 15 carries Sunday. They rank fourth in rush defense but have allowed 4.4 yards per carry, 13th worst in the league. Middle linebacker Josh Bynes and interior linemen Brandon Williams, Chris Wormley and Michael Pierce have been the team’s top run defenders. Williams is one of the veterans who will receive a rest day against the Steelers.

STEELERS RUSH DEFENSE: Led by one of the NFL’s most talented front sevens, the Steelers have excelled against the run, allowing opponents just 3.7 yards per carry. They held the Ravens to 138 yards in their Week 5 overtime loss in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are loaded along the defensive line, with Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree all grading as very good to excellent run defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. Middle linebacker Devin Bush has delivered a productive rookie season with 97 tackles, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has excelled in run support.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens rank seventh in pass defense and will send cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, safety Earl Thomas III and outside linebacker Matthew Judon to the Pro Bowl. Despite playing with leads almost all of the time, they haven’t allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since Week 4. The Ravens will rest Thomas and could also manage workloads for veteran defensive backs Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr and for Judon, their one indispensable pass rusher.

STEELERS PASS DEFENSE: The Steelers have been terrific here as well, ranking fifth in pass defense, second in interceptions and fourth in opponents’ yards per attempt. They sacked Jackson five times and intercepted him thrice in Week 5. Three Pittsburgh defenders have at least eight sacks, led by Watt, a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with 14. With so many gifted pass rushers, Pittsburgh leads the league in pressure percentage. Fitzpatrick is headed for the Pro Bowl with five interceptions and nine passes defended, and the Steelers’ top four cornerbacks have all played well.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker has made 24 of 25 field-goal attempts in his least busy season as a professional. Sam Koch has put 48.6% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which would rank third in the league if he had enough kicks to qualify. The Ravens tightened up their coverage against the Browns, allowing just 25 return yards on six kickoffs. They’ve operated at a deficit on kickoffs all season, averaging 17.7 yards per return while allowing 22.2 yards per return.

STEELERS SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Chris Boswell has returned to form after a rough 2018, making 28 of 30 field-goal attempts and all 27 of his extra-point attempts. Jordan Berry has been below average, putting just 31.9% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, with a net average of 40.6 yards. Johnson has averaged 12.4 yards per punt return, including an 85-yard touchdown in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals.

EDGE: Steelers

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens don’t need to win and will rest many of their best players accordingly. Coach John Harbaugh is never one to concede a game, especially not against a divisional foe, and the Ravens believe they’re going to win every week at this point. But if there’s a week for them to play without their typical edge, this is it.

STEELERS INTANGIBLES: The Steelers, by contrast, must win to have a shot at the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. They also have to hope the Tennessee Titans lose. As badly as Pittsburgh has played on offense in two consecutive losses, Tomlin will surely have his team motivated, and the defense always shows up.

EDGE: Steelers

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PREDICTION: The Ravens haven’t given anyone a reason to pick against them for the past two months, but they’ve finally played their way into a game they don’t need to win. The Steelers struggle to move the ball and score, but their defense keeps them competitive week after week. Between their last-chance desperation and talented front seven, they’ll have just enough to get by the resting Ravens in a plodding contest. Steelers 16, Ravens 13.

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