With Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson sidelined again, backup Tyler Huntley will begin the Ravens’ regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, coach John Harbaugh announced Friday.
The fourth start of Huntley’s career would be the most significant in his youth career. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Ravens (8-8) need a win over the Steelers (8-7-1) in Baltimore and wins by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots To make his fourth straight season appearance on Sunday. They enter the weekend with only 2% playoff odds, According to estimates by FiveThirtyEight,
Jackson was ruled out of Sunday’s game for not practicing this week. He has not appeared in a game since December 12, when he was kicked off the field in a Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player has practiced just once in that period, limping through the December 29 workout as the Ravens prepared for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Jackson, who had never missed a game due to injury before this season, will likely end the year with four consecutive misses. An illness also sidelined him in Week 11, when Huntley made his career debut with a win over the Chicago Bears.
“He wants to be out every time,” Huntley said Friday of Jackson, whose passer rating (87.0) and QBR (50.3) represent his worst scores this season since his rookie year. “Being in the locker room, it’s so hard to see him go out there and not be as great as he usually is. … I can’t wait for ‘L’ to feel better.”
Harbaugh declined to comment on the team’s injuries this week. Asked on Wednesday about the timetable for Jackson’s return, he said: “I really don’t even see the value of talking about it at this point in time.”
Huntley, who is 1-2 as a starter, had never been named a starter before the game until Friday. Jackson was listed as a suspect in the team’s previous three injury reports and was inactive for all three games.
In six games this season, Huntley has completed 67.5% of his passes for 940 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and added 35 carries for 222 yards and two scores. This week, he is coming off one of the hardest parts of his youth career. The Ravens after missing out on a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 with a coronavirus infection, he was not allowed to practice until three days before Sunday’s game against Rams.
Huntley said on Friday he was still “feeling it in my chest” days after testing negative for the virus. Against a talented Rams defense, he finished 20-for-32 for an interception for 197 yards; His 66.8 passer rating was the lowest of his three starts. The Ravens did not score an offensive touchdown for the first time in a 20–19 defeat in October 2018.
“It’s like a little kid learning how to draw,” Huntley said Friday of his sporting experience. “The first time you draw, it looks crazy. Then you get a little bit better. You get a real kind of picture. And then, as they go on, they add some color to it, And it starts to look like a real-deal pic. So it’s just, the more reps, the more experience [you get] And the better you play.”
With a strong showing on Sunday, Huntley could send longtime Ravens nemesis Ben Roethlisberger into retirement with a loss. The 39-year-old Steelers quarterback is hoping to have his 249th and final NFL game. Roethlisberger has won his last four starts against the Ravens, and in a Week 13 win at Pittsburgh, he went 21-for-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns, including a forward score.
Huntley called it a “great achievement just to be considered” of the AFC North rivalry. He was just 6 years old when Roethlisberger made his debut against the Ravens in December 2004, and has had the same number of careers as Roethlisberger has in Super Bowls (three).
“Tyler is preparing very hard,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Thursday. “I think he has a really good focus, week in and week out. The things that happen, he’s seeing a lot for the first time. You’re talking about the guy who went to Chicago, don’t know that he had been playing until a few hours before the game and led the two-minute drive to win that game on the road.
,[He] Aaron went toe-to-toe with Rodgers [in Week 15] – He was a play away – and toe-to-toe with another veteran quarterback [Matthew Stafford] Last week. I think he’s playing himself really well. This is a sign of their preparation. I really like how focused he is. There are such high standards that he is really pushing to improve all the time. That’s why I love his style of work.”
Ravens cornerback Anthony Everett, who hasn’t practiced since suffering a rib/chest injury in Week 16, was ruled out along with Jackson. Everett’s second straight absence means the Ravens will again be without their top three outside cornerbacks – Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters already on injured reserve – against Roethlisberger and wide receiver Dionte Johnson, who will be in reserve/COVID-19 on Friday. -19 were activated from the list. Johnson, who leads the Steelers with 1,100 receiving yards, had a season-high 105 yards and two touchdowns in Week 13 against the Ravens.
Ravens rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (legs), who hasn’t practiced for the past two weeks, is suspicious. Guards Ben Powers (legs) and Ben Cleveland (head) are both suspects. He was estimated to have a limited number of participants in Friday’s walk-through, leaving the team’s backup plan uncertain on the left guard. Wide receiver Devin DuVernay (ankle/knee) was speculated to be a full participant, but is considered doubtful.
Wide receiver Marquis “Hollywood” Brown (ankle) and right tackle Patrick McCreery (arm) are expected to play on Sunday after injury reports were not listed. Brown missed Thursday’s practice, while Makery was limited. Despite the team’s injury status, Harbaugh called the Ravens’ practice week “one of our best” this season.
“The people have been tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been quick, have been on point. The timing has been excellent – both sides of the ball and the special teams. They’ve been great to work on throughout the week, just like the rest of the year. [It’s been] As good or better than we’ve been all year. So, yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about this week.”
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers refused to tackle Isaiah Buggs (illness) and inside linebacker Buddy Johnson (legs). It is doubtful to start a left tackle from Dan Moore Jr (ankle) after not practicing all week.
This story will be updated.