Another Steelers-Ravens classic is on the way, with playoff implications and a Christmas Day atmosphere adding to the hype. On the legs of Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers have worked their way to the top of the AFC North, but they have lost six of their last seven games against Baltimore. For the Ravens to walk out of Heinz Field with a win, their secondary must outplay the Steelers’ potent offense. Baltimore began its second straight week of practice without top cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle), so it looks like it will again rely on Shareece Wright, Tavon Young and Jerraud Powers. This trio has given up 12 touchdowns this season.
The Ravens are stout against the run, so the 10th-ranked passing defense must continue to improve. This group must be aware of where Antonio Brown and cheap jerseys and Eli Rogers are on the field. It must contain Brown, who is four receptions shy of his fourth straight season with at least 100 catches, by playing close. It will be essential for Wright, Young and Powers, along with safeties Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle, to play technically sound and tackle well throughout the game to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
Tonight’s Steelers-Chiefs Divisional Playoff game on NBC will move forward as announced at 8:20 p.m. ET. We feel comfortable, after consulting with local and state authorities and both teams, that we can proceed tonight without resulting in any negative impact on public safety resources. We will continue to monitor the weather and urge anyone traveling to the game to use appropriate caution and heed any warnings from local authorities.
In addition, the game will serve as a testing ground, of sorts. The NFL will use the game to determine if Sunday night playoff games make sense for television ratings and for logistics, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. ESPN first reported the development.
The main culprits were not unfamiliar to Steelers fans, though Pittsburgh knew well the drop issues associated with wideouts Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton when they drafted them. In each of their NFL.com draft profiles, concentration and catch consistency were among the negatives.
Roethlisberger went deep to Coates on the opening drive when it was clear the speedy wideout had a step on his defender, but the ball fell through his hands. Hamilton, in the second quarter, dropped a pass that appeared to land in his stomach near the end zone. According to Pro Football Focus, the Steers’ drops accounted for 119 total yards of offense.
The league announced back in March of 2016 that Bryant would be out for a minimum of one season without pay. At the time, Bryant’s agent called the wideout’s drug use a “coping” and “depression” issue in an interview with USA Today.
Applying for reinstatement is just the first step, of course. The league does not have a definite timetable for solving these cases and it could be a while before we see Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite No. 2 wide receiver hit the field. Bryant last played in a game on Jan. 3, 2016. The 25-year-old former fourth-round pick out of Clemson has yet to play more than 11 games in a season. This would have been his third year in the NFL.
Nearly 39 years old, Steelers linebacker James Harrison was the dominant defensive force for the second consecutive game. Harrison recorded three tackles for loss, two QB hits and one sack, but his most crucial effort was forcing a holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher to nullify the game-tying two-point conversion with less than three minutes remaining. Harrison is now up to 11 career postseason sacks, tying for the fifth-most since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
The object of season-long derision over missed extra points, the NFL’s legion of kickers can walk proudly in the aftermath of Sunday’s sterling feats. After Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey combined to drill three kicks over 50 yards in the final 98 seconds of the NFC’s Divisional Round matchup, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell set a new single-game postseason record with six field goals. It’s the second time this season Boswell has drilled a half-dozen field goals in one game.
Williams and Moats each have three kids, Foster has two, and multiple Steelers spoke glowingly of Moats’ wife. But the man Heyward called “Uncle Deebo” won here — and it’s not that surprising. Harrison’s two sons, James and Henry, are fixtures in the Steelers’ postgame locker room, patiently sitting in their father’s locker as they wait for him, politely smiling and saying hello to anyone who walks by. They shake hands, they don’t interrupt and they watch out for each other, too. And their dad, well, he turns to mush around kids, with no less than three teammates saying, “He’s awesome with mine.”
Harrison was visibly pleased to hear he won this category, saying, “That’s cool.” But then he put on his trademark scowl as he promised, “You know they’d get their homework done and be well-disciplined if you left them with me.”