Ravens could say goodbye to Big Ben, boot Steelers from playoff picture
Ben Roethlisberger played what is expected to be his final home game last weekend and could be playing for the last time when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Roethlisberger hasn’t formally announced his retirement but the atmosphere during last Sunday night’s 26-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns foreshadowed finality.
A last date with the Ravens is lining up as his possible career capper as Pittsburgh (8-7-1) needs to win the game and hope for help to crack the AFC postseason field.
The Steelers are ninth in the pecking order for the expanded seven-team field in the AFC. They trail the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders by a half-game.
The Chargers and Raiders meet and the head-to-head benefits Pittsburgh as long there’s no tie. The hard part for the Steelers: the Colts play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have lost eight straight games and own the league’s worst record at 2-14.
Roethlisberger knows it’s not an ideal situation.
“We got to go out and win this football game,” Roethlisberger said. “We have to focus on us. That’s our number one focus, winning the football game because nothing happens if we don’t. That will be 99.9 percent of our focus. Because we’re human, we’re probably still going to be peeking (at the scoreboard), but we have to win our football game.”
The Ravens (8-8) are alive despite five consecutive losses.
Baltimore needs to beat the Steelers and have the Colts and Chargers lose and the Miami Dolphins lose or tie against the New England Patriots.
“Of course I’ll be looking at the scoreboard,” Ravens defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “I’m going to play my heart out, leave it on the field. Even if we had no chance I was going to do that, because I love the game. The fact that we have a chance just gives me a little bit of hope and we’re going to hang on to it.”
Sunday could be Campbell’s final game. The six-time Pro Bowl selection said he is weighing whether to return for a 15th NFL season or retire.
“It depends on how my body feels,” said Campbell, finishing his second season with the Ravens after stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Jaguars. “Fifteen years was the goal I set for myself when I was young … I still would like to play one more if I have it in me. But it’s hard.”
Whether quarterback Lamar Jackson will be on the field remains unknown. Jackson has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Wednesday.
Among other Ravens who didn’t practice were cornerback Anthony Averett (ribs, chest) and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (foot). Quarterback Tyler Huntley (illness) was a full participant and is in line to start if Jackson again sits out.
Pittsburgh placed cornerback Joe Haden on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. The team also activated six players from the list, including linebackers Joe Schobert and Devin Bush.
Another Steelers linebacker, star T.J. Watt, will be in the spotlight as he has 21.5 sacks, one off the official record set by Michael Strahan in 2001.
The Steelers also figure to dial up Najee Harris’ number a lot this Sunday after the rookie had a career-best 188 rushing yards in the triumph over Cleveland.
Harris rushed for 71 yards on 21 carries in a 20-19 home win over the Ravens on Dec. 5. Since that outing he has topped 90 yards in three of four games.
Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns during Pittsburgh’s 17-point fourth quarter last month. Baltimore scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left but Jackson’s two-point conversion pass for tight end Mark Andrews was incomplete.
Otherwise, the postseason possibilities would look much differently this week and Sunday’s game would mean nothing for the Steelers.
“Obviously, there’s a lot at stake,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “But it doesn’t have to be a lot at stake. It’s Pittsburgh and the Ravens. I think anybody that follows professional sports knows what that means. We’re going into their venue, a hostile environment in a big-time circumstance.
“Our guys will be inspired by that. The Ravens bring out the best in us. They do.”
–Field Level Media