The Ravens Thanksgiving night prime-time showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field has been postponed until Sunday, Nov. 29, because of the COVID-19 outbreak that has hit the Ravens locker room.
The NFL announced the scheduling change on Nov. 25, citing “an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts.”
That same day, the Ravens added center Matt Skura, offensive lineman Patrick Mekari and defensive end Calais Campbell to the reserve/COVID-19 list, increasing to seven the number of Ravens placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.
The list is for players who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been deemed to be in close contact with someone who tested positive. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed the positive diagnoses for Dobbins and Ingram and said Williams was added as a close contact. He did not comment on the other cases.
According to the league’s COVID protocol, anyone testing positive must isolate for 10 days from the time of the first positive test, and anyone deemed close contacts must test negative for five consecutive days after the close contact before returning.
The Ravens shut their facility on the morning of Nov. 23 but then held a masked walkthrough later that day. With more positive test results, the facility was shuttered again the next day and all preparations have been done virtually since.
After the postponement was announced, the Ravens released a statement that said, “We appreciate the NFL for its diligence in working closely with us to ensure the well-being of players, coaches and staff from both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers organizations.
Protecting the health and safety of each team, in addition to our communities at large, is of utmost importance. We will continue to follow guidance from the NFL and its medical experts, as we focus on safely resuming preparations for Sunday’s game.”
The postponement did not sit well with some Steelers, whose schedule was already shuffled by another team’s COVID outbreak. The Steelers’ bye week was moved to Week 4, and their game at Baltimore was shifted from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 — instead of right after a bye — because of a COVID outbreak on the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers (10-0), the NFL’s last undefeated team this year, can eliminate the Ravens (6-4) from AFC North contention with a victory. The Ravens have lost three of their past four games, including a 28-24 loss to the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium Nov. 1.
If all the players on the reserve/COVID-19 list are unavailable — and both Williams and Campbell were likely out with injuries anyway — the Ravens will be without two of their top three running backs, their top two centers, two of their top defensive linemen and one of their top edge rushers. Several players from the team’s 16-player practice squad are expected to be pressed into action.
Even at full strength, the Ravens would face a tall order against a Steelers team that ranks No. 5 overall, No. 7 against the run and No. 1 in scoring, allowing a league-low 17.4 points a game.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has struggled against Pittsburgh in his two career starts, completing 32 of 56 passes with five interceptions and four fumbles. As a starter, two of his three lowest passer ratings have come against the Steelers. In the Ravens’ loss to Pittsburgh three weeks ago, Jackson went 13-for-28 for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and he threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He also fumbled three times, losing two, including one inside the Steelers’ 10-yard line.
Still, these teams always seem to play close games. Despite Jackson’s struggles in that Nov. 1 game, the Ravens had a chance to win on the final play, but Jackson’s pass to Willie Snead at the goal line was broken up.
During the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 14-14 against the Steelers. Half of those games have been decided by three points or less, and 20 of them by one score.
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