When the Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season finale on Dec. 29, several Ravens starters including quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram, safety Earl Thomas and guard Marshal Yanda will sit out, a luxury the Ravens (13-2) have earned by locking up the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed with one week to play.
For several Ravens further down the depth chart, this game will provide a rare in-season audition of sorts, which could be beneficial both for the players and the coaching staff, which can get a better sense of certain players that they haven’t seen much of this year.
As the Ravens aim to break the franchise record for wins in a season against the archrival Steelers (8-7), here are five players to watch:
QB Robert Griffin III
The Steelers game will come almost three years to the day since Griffin last made an NFL regular-season start; his last start came in the 2016 season finale, on Jan. 1, 2017, for the Cleveland Browns.
Last spring, Griffin said he had hoped to find a starting job, but when that didn’t happen he re-signed a new two-year deal with the Ravens, and he has embraced his role as a mentor to Jackson. The Ravens also like the way their offense doesn’t need to change appreciably because of Griffin’s skill set.
Griffin has gotten some game action this year, primarily late in blowout wins, and has completed 12 of 17 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
He will get his most extensive action of the season this week, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman said, “He’s a true pro. He comes in every day, works hard, great teammate. I’m really excited to see him this week.”
RB Justice Hill
Hill is coming off perhaps his best game of the season at Cleveland, as he had three carries for 19 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown — the first of his career — and a career-best three catches for 32 yards. With Ingram sitting out this game, Gus Edwards and Hill will get a heavy workload, and the Ravens will get their best look yet at the fourth-round rookie from Oklahoma State.
Hill was considered a speedy, quicker change-of-pace back to Ingram and the battering ram Edwards, but his role has been limited to about a dozen snaps a game, and he failed to hold on to the starting kick return job early in the season. Whether Ingram’s calf injury lingers into the playoffs, Hill and the Ravens should be well-served by his extended action this week. For the year, Hill has 48 carries for 186 yards and seven catches for 60 yards.
WR Jaleel Scott
Scott has been buried on the depth chart at wide receiver this year, behind Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts and Miles Boykin. With them staying healthy for the most part, there’s been little opportunity for Scott, a fourth-round draft pick last year who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. He has appeared in just two games this season, with zero offensive snaps.
Scott is an impressive target at 6-foot-5, and it will be interesting to see if the Ravens and Griffin try to utilize his size against the Steelers. But because this is the Ravens’ offense, you can bet that Roman and head coach John Harbaugh will be looking closely at how Scott blocks in the run game, which has been an underrated aspect of the Ravens’ receiving corps this year.
CB Anthony Averett
Averett earned a couple of starts earlier this year with Jimmy Smith sidelined and before Marcus Peters was acquired via trade, but his role has been nonexistent throughout the past month. He has been a game-day inactive for five straight games.
Averett, a fourth-round draft pick last year, started in Week 2 against Arizona and Week 4 against Cleveland and has recorded 13 tackles and two passes defensed this season. With Smith and Peters healthy and available, Averett’s role on defense figured to be limited, but his lack of activity suggests the Ravens have not been overly pleased with his special teams play. This week might be a chance to help his case.
It’s imperative that the Ravens begin to get a sense of what they have in Averett, since Smith, Carr and Peters all could potentially be gone after the season.
CB Iman Marshall
As with Averett, the Ravens would like to see more from Marshall, a rookie fourth-round pick out of USC who spent the first half of the season on injured reserve. Since being activated from IR, Marshall has played in two games, with one defensive snap.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Marshall has the size and attributes to be a physical corner, and he should get an extended audition with Smith, Peters and Marlon Humphrey expected to play little if at all.
What the Ravens see from Averett and Marshall this week could influence how the Ravens approach this coming offseason in terms of roster decisions on the secondary.
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