Here’s how The Baltimore Sun sports staff views the outcome of Sunday afternoon’s Week 18 game between the Ravens (8-8) and Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) at M&T Bank Stadium:
Jonas Shaffer, reporter
Ravens 21, Steelers 20: The Ravens can’t lose six games in a row … can they? Don’t let all the pomp and circumstance of Ben Roethlisberger’s grand finale deceive you; this is still a mediocre Pittsburgh team, probably the worst opponent the Ravens have faced since their losing streak started in Pittsburgh. On offense, Tyler Huntley has the kind of quick-hitting approach that can limit T.J. Watt’s impact. On defense, the Ravens have the front to hamstring the Steelers’ running game. Diontae Johnson’s return could loom large for Pittsburgh, but this feels like a a game where the Ravens’ luck starts to turn.
Mike Preston, columnist
Ravens 20, Steelers 17: Pittsburgh has the second-worst rush defense in the league, allowing 139.6 yards per game, so the Ravens need to pound the ball and stick with it. The Steelers, meanwhile, will likely go no-huddle from the start after it caused a lot of confusion for the Ravens’ defense in the second half of the first meeting. The Ravens have lost five straight but they are at home. Both teams need to win to have any hope of gaining a playoff berth, but the Ravens will send “Big Ben” Roethlisberger into retirement with a loss in perhaps the final game of his Hall of Fame career.
Childs Walker, reporter
Ravens 23, Steelers 17: This is not your usual Ravens-Steelers heavyweight slugfest. Both teams are dragging themselves over the finish line after difficult seasons. Ben Roethlisberger’s swan song will dominate the headlines going in, but the Ravens will exploit advantages in the run game and on special teams to pull out a low-scoring alley fight.
Ryan McFadden, reporter
Ravens 17, Steelers 14: Even though the playoff odds are slim, the Ravens still have something to play for Sunday. The Ravens will use their running game and timely plays down the stretch to ruin Ben Roethlisberger’s potential last game with the Steelers. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley will get the start once again, but he has shown that he is capable of manning the position. The Ravens need plenty of outside help to get into the playoffs, but stranger things have happened this season.
C.J. Doon, editor
Ravens 28, Steelers 23: It could just be coachspeak, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday that the Ravens had one of their best weeks of practice this season. That doesn’t sound like a team that’s thinking about its paltry 2% chance to make the playoffs. There’s enough motivation alone to beat Ben Roethlisberger in his final game, and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley’s quick passing game might be just what the Ravens need to neutralize T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. This cursed season likely ends without a postseason berth, but the Ravens will control what they can control Sunday and beat Pittsburgh at home. For those scoreboard watching, the Jaguars beating the Colts is the most unlikely leg of Don “Wink” Martindale’s three-team parlay, but Jacksonville upset the Bills earlier this season and hasn’t loss to the Colts at home since 2014. Hey, you never know.
Tim Schwartz, editor
Ravens 24, Steelers 23: Will the Ravens really let Ben Roethlisberger finish his career with a win in Baltimore? I suspect the Ravens will be fired up and ready to make sure their rival’s last impression is not walking out of M&T Bank Stadium with a victory. Besides, Tyler Huntley is due for a win, and with even a sliver of hope for a playoff spot the Ravens spent the week preparing for a must-win game. They gave away their last meeting with Pittsburgh, and they won’t do it again.