With Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson suffering a sprained PCL against the Denver Broncos just four days ago, it would be surprising to see him suit up against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. And it appears to be heading that way, as the All-Pro quarterback did not practice for the second consecutive day on Thursday. The timetable for a PCL injury is 1-to-3 weeks, and with the Ravens sitting at 8-4 and facing the 5-7 Steelers, there’s no reason for Baltimore to rush Jackson back.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has also already declared that Jackson is “less likely” to play on Sunday. So, it looks like like it’s going to be a Tyler Huntley vs. Kenny Pickett matchup. Huntley started in place of an injured Jackson in the regular-season finale last season against the Steelers, completing 16 of 31 passes (51.6%) for 141 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a woeful 37.2 quarterback rating in a 16-13 overtime loss. Huntley was a lot better in the run game, however, rushing for 72 yards on 12 carries (6.0 average).
In relief of Jackson on Sunday, Huntley completed 27 of 32 passes (84.4%) for 187 yards with no touchdowns, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 78.0. Huntley also rushed for 41 yards on 10 carries (4.1 average) and scored a game-winning 2-yard touchdown.
If Jackson can’t go, Huntley would make his fifth career start on Sunday. And Mike Tomlin is expecting a better quarterback this time around.
“I look at it from his perspective,” Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “That’s a guy that had an opportunity to get an extended amount of play last year. When you don’t have a long playing resume, and you go into an offseason, it’s somewhat mystical the areas of your game that you need to work on.
“I would imagine last year’s experience really narrowed his focus as he went into the offseason. He was able to identify tangible areas of his game that he needed to improve. I’m sure they were, as well. We’re not going to seek comfort or find comfort in the fact that we’ve been in a stadium with him before. Last year’s exposure for him, more than anything, tells us we had better be prepared for a guy that is significantly better.”
Huntley is an effective runner, but he doesn’t possess the same kind of talent as Jackson. And not many quarterbacks do, as Jackson is a rare breed. In fact, Jackson ranks third in the league in 10+ yard runs with 31, behind only running backs Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb. The Ravens rank third in the league in rushing, averaging 157.8 yards per game, so it will be interesting to see how the Steelers defend a Ravens’ rushing attack without their main piece.
Although, even if Jackson plays, the Steelers historically do very well against him. Jackson is 1-2 in his career as starter against the Steelers and hasn’t compiled huge numbers. In three games, Jackson completed just 55 of 93 passes (59.1%) for 622 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. The Steelers have been stellar in containing Jackson in the run game as well, allowing 190 yards on 38 carries (5.0 average) and no touchdowns.
If Jackson is sidelined, it would be the fourth consecutive year that he’s missed at least one game against the Steelers. Jackson didn’t play in the regular-season finale in 2019 because the Ravens sat a ton of starters due to clinching a No. 1 playoff seed already. In 2020, Jackson missed the Week 12 matchup because he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. And then, in 2021, Jackson was out with an ankle injury in the Week 18 contest. Surprisingly, Jackson has only played one game as a starter in his career in Pittsburgh, a 26-23 overtime win in 2019.
In addition to Jackson, right guard Kevin Zeitler (knee), cornerback Daryl Worley (hamstring), cornerback Marcus Peters (NFI rest) and center/guard Trystan Colon did not practice on Thursday. It was the second straight missed practice for Zeitler. Offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (toe), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), linebacker Patrick Queen (thigh), outside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (quad) and linebacker Kristian Welch (concussion) were limited.