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John Harbaugh Unsure If Lamar Jackson, Starters Will Play In Ravens' Season Finale Vs. Steelers | TheSportsDay John Harbaugh Unsure If Lamar Jackson, Starters Will Play In Ravens' Season Finale Vs. Steelers | TheSportsDay

John Harbaugh unsure if Lamar Jackson, starters will play in Ravens' season finale vs. Steelers

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Ravens head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t yet know if Lamar Jackson or other key Baltimore starters will play in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He addressed the subject at the start of his Monday news conference, a day after the Ravens clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a blowout win over the Miami Dolphins.

“I have not made a decision on any personnel yet,” Harbaugh told reporters. “We’ve got to work through the injury part of it first and that’ll take us probably 24-48 hours to get a real handle on that. Then we’ll make those decisions.

“We’re not gonna keep it a secret. We’ll let you know what we’re gonna do once we start practicing.”

Lamar Jackson may or may not play in Baltimore's season finale against Pittsburgh. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)Lamar Jackson may or may not play in Baltimore's season finale against Pittsburgh. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Lamar Jackson may or may not play in Baltimore’s season finale against Pittsburgh. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Should the Ravens rest their starters?

The game doesn’t matter for Baltimore’s playoff seeding. They’ll have the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye regardless of its outcome. But it does matter for the Steelers and the AFC playoff race.

The Steelers are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture after Week 17. But they can clinch a wild-card berth with a win over the Ravens and a loss by either the Jaguars against the Titans or the Bills against the Dolphins. For those teams still fighting for a playoff berth, Sunday’s outcome very much does matter.

Also, it’s a home game against the Steelers, Baltimore’s biggest rival.

“We have kind of a two-fold thought process right now,” Harbaugh said. “We have our priority, which is the Steelers game and putting our best foot forward, playing our best game against our biggest rival, who we expect to be playing great football.

“We expect it to be a very hard-fought game. So we’ve gotta get our minds right for that, as we will. Then just playing for the next step in the playoffs.”

Rest has backfired for Ravens before

For the Ravens, there’s also the rest vs. rust debate. They’ll already have the first week of the postseason off. If Jackson and other key starters sit against Pittsburgh, they’ll go into the divisional round of the playoffs three weeks removed from playing competitive football.

It’s a formula that backfired the last time Baltimore was in this position. The Ravens rested their starters against the Steelers for their 2019 season finale when they’d clinched the No. 1 seed. They went on to lose 28-12 to the Tennessee Titans two weeks later in their playoff opener.

But the biggest factor in these decision always comes down to injury risk. If Jackson or any other key starters get injured playing in a game that doesn’t impact Baltimore in the standings, none of the other considerations matter.

It’s a good problem to have. But it’s not a simple decision for Harbaugh.

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