The Baltimore Ravens will have to go up against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is close to full-strength after getting outside linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward back after both missed practices during Week 13.
Watt tested positive for COVID-19 and was moved to the COVID-19 Reserve list on November 29, but after negative tests on December 3 and 4, he was activated ahead of the Ravens’ visit to Pittsburgh, per the NFL’s official transaction report for December 4.
Heyward missed practice on December 3 with a non-COVID illness, but he did not receive any designation on the Steelers’ official injury report. That was the first hint that Heyward would play against the Ravens, with NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reporting that the veteran defensive lineman is expected to play.
“I’m told that as long as his COVID test is negative today and he doesn’t wake up feeling brutal, PIT is expecting him to play,” wrote Kinkhabwala on Twitter on December 5.
There’s been no word on Heyward’s COVID test, but no news with less than two hours before kickoff likely indicates that he’ll take the field in Pittsburgh.
Watt and Heyward will look to attack a Baltimore offensive line that has persevered through several injuries this season to put up top-15 grades from PFF in both run and pass blocking.
Steelers’ Haden Out
The Steelers do have one key absence on defense in the form of cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh’s top cornerback this season.
Though the Ravens will certainly be looking to take advantage of the Steelers’ fifth-worst rushing defense with Baltimore’s own fifth-best rushing offense, Haden’s absence will likely open up the passing game as well.
The Ravens currently have three players averaging over 50 receiving yards per game this season – tight end Mark Andrews and wide receivers Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Rashod Bateman – with veteran wideout Sammy Watkins not far behind with 44.4 yards per game.
After throwing four interceptions against the Cleveland Browns in Week 12, Ravens superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson will certainly be looking to bounce back with a strong performance against the Steelers. With Haden out, he’ll be primed to do just that, as he is Pittsburgh’s lone defensive back with a PFF coverage grade better than 65.0 this season.
Ravens’ Humphrey Set to Play
Despite missing practice on December 2 and 3, Ravens star cornerback Marlon Humphrey appears healthy enough to take the field in Pittsburgh.
He was seen at the Washington Wizards’ NBA game on the night of December 3 with fellow Ravens defensive back Geno Stone.
Humphrey also posted a picture of his uniform on Instagram earlier Sunday, per Baltimore Sun reporter Jonas Shaffer, further indicating that he’ll be ready to go for the 4:25 p.m. Eastern time kickoff.
All four players were seen “moving well” by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley warming up on the field a few hours before kickoff, though the practice squad elevation of defensive back Robert Jackson indicates that at least one is expected to be out.
Young was absent from practice all week with an illness, but his participation in warmups indicate that he should be ready to play. Averett was a limited participant on December 2 and 3 after missing practice on December 1, so he’ll likely play as well.
Smith was expected to play after working his way back from a neck injury that sidelined him for Baltimore’s last two games, but he picked up an ankle injury in practice that forced him back onto the injury report, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.
Westry is another question mark, as he missed last week’s game against the Browns and only returned to practice on December 3 as a limited participant. The Ravens may opt to hold him out for another week to ensure that his thigh heals properly and doesn’t present a problem later in the season.