First call: Steelers’ playoff chances narrow after MNF result; Ravens are unclear on Lamar Jackson’s health status

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ slim playoff chances took a hit during “Monday Night Football.” The Ravens aren’t giving any hints about who will play quarterback when the Steelers visit Baltimore on Sunday night. One of the Ravens isn’t thrilled with the flexibility of that game. And the Penguins prepare to renew friendships with the New York Islanders.

All that in the “First Call” on Tuesday.

looking for lamar

The Baltimore Ravens (10-5) continue to play without Lamar Jackson. He is dealing with a knee injury. The former MVP quarterback was injured during a 10-9 win against the Denver Broncos on December 4.

The Ravens then came to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers 16-14 with a combination of Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown at quarterback. Jackson did not play the following week against the Cleveland Browns (a 13-3 loss) or at home against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday (a 17-9 win).

Now the Ravens are set to battle the Steelers (7-8) on Sunday night with Jackson’s health still in question for the rematch in Baltimore. The Ravens have managed just two touchdowns in those three complete games without Jackson in uniform.

On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked if Jackson will practice this week before Sunday. All he said was, “We’ll have to see.”

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jackson is dealing with a sprained PCL. What Jamison Hensley of reports, which is normally a three-week injury. Hensley also points out that in the three games without Jackson, Baltimore is averaging 12.0 points per game, 30th in the NFL over that span. Also during that span, the Ravens rank 21st in total yards (310.7), 31st in passing (111.7) and 32nd in red zone efficiency (22.2%).

The Ravens have already clinched a wild card berth. However, they can still win the AFC North with wins over the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the last two weeks of the season.

Queen is not interested in the time change

Speaking of the Steelers-Ravens game, linebacker Patrick Queen isn’t thrilled that the NFL flexed that contest to be a Sunday night game. It was scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m.

Quickly, people on Twitter inferred that Queen was questioning the need to flex the game since the Steelers are just 7-8. Queen tried to placate that narrative.

The game that was flexed on Sunday night was the “Battle of LA” game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams. The Chargers (9-6) already have a wild card and can’t win the AFC West. The 5-10 Rams have been eliminated from postseason competition.

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doesn’t help

The Chargers’ 20-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) on Monday night dealt a massive blow to the Steelers’ already-miniscule playoff hopes. By virtue of that victory, Los Angeles (9-6) clinched the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. The Ravens (10-5), Bengals (11-4), Kansas City Chiefs (12-3) and Buffalo Bills (12-3) also qualified.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) or the Tennessee Titans (7-8) will claim the AFC South. That makes six of the AFC’s seven vacancies filled.

So the Steelers (7-8) are just looking for a final wild-card start. His chances of making the playoffs are now only 2% according to playoff predictor.

In to reach the playoffs, the Steelers must win their last two games against the Ravens and the Browns. On top of that, the 8-7 Miami Dolphins must either lose their last two games or lose once and tie once (against the New York Jets and New England Patriots).

The 7-8 Steelers also can’t finish tied with either the Jets or the Patriots because they lost to both teams head-to-head. The Steelers also lost to the Dolphins.

not easy

When the Penguins take on the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, don’t expect either team to turn on the power play.

Those two clubs have two of the best penalty shootout units in hockey. The Penguins’ PK is dropping to 84.8%. That’s tied with the San Jose Sharks for most in the NHL. The Isles’ men’s down unit is at 81.7%, sixth-best in hockey.

Part of the reason is that both teams are having good goalkeeping. Ilya Sorokin’s .925 save percentage is tied with former Penguin Matt Murray and Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev for fourth in the NHL. Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry’s .920 mark is ninth.

Sorokin is also ninth in the NHL in goals against average of 2.37. Jarry is 20th at 2.67.

Tim Benz is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets can be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.

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