Injury picture could complicate Ravens’ plans for Week 18 playing time

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With the Ravens having already clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage, many are comparing Saturday’s regular-season finale against Pittsburgh to a preseason game with no reason to risk injuries to starters ahead of the playoffs.

But it isn’t quite that simple.

Unlike the summer when teams have 90-man rosters at their disposal, head coach John Harbaugh will need to be more selective in determining which players will sit out against the Steelers, who are still hoping to secure a playoff spot of their own with a win and some help in Week 18. Teams may have a maximum of 48 players active in addition to an emergency third quarterback for game days, meaning it’s challenging to sit more than maybe nine or 10 players with even a fully healthy roster.

Baltimore doesn’t have that at the moment after listing 11 players as either a non-participant or limited on Tuesday’s estimated injury report. Further complicating matters is some of those individuals being the kind of role players you’d prefer to play more extensively in a game like this, which is why Harbaugh wasn’t ready to reveal his plans Monday. That said, many — including various sports books listing Pittsburgh as the favorite — are expecting the Ravens to rest superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson at the very least.

“I have not made a decision on any personnel yet. We’ve got to work through the injury part of it first,” Harbaugh said. “That’ll take us probably 24 to 48 hours to get a real handle on that, and then we’ll make those decisions. We’re not going to keep it a secret. We’ll let you know what we’re going to do once we start practicing.”

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) and wide receiver Zay Flowers (calf) were the only Baltimore starters listed as non-participants with the Ravens not practicing at all on Tuesday, but versatile linebacker Malik Harrison (groin) and defensive back Daryl Worley (shoulder/ankle) were also estimated absences. After sitting out Sunday’s 56-19 win over Miami, safety Kyle Hamilton (knee), cornerback Brandon Stephens (ankle), and right guard Kevin Zeitler (knee/quadricep) were listed as limited.

To gain an idea of how Harbaugh might handle Saturday’s game, the Ravens made Jackson, right guard Marshal Yanda, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, nose tackle Brandon Williams, and safety Earl Thomas healthy scratches for the final game of the 2019 regular season. Running back Mark Ingram and tight end Mark Andrews were also deactivated, but they were dealing with injuries at the time. Of the players who were active for that game against Pittsburgh, cornerback Jimmy Smith was the only one not to play at all.

The Steelers conducted a walk-through on Tuesday and also released an estimated injury report with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) and inside linebacker Elandon Roberts (pectoral) listed as not practicing. Quarterback Kenny Pickett (ankle) was a full participant, but Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has already named veteran Mason Rudolph as the Week 18 starter.

Below was Tuesday’s estimated injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Zay Flowers (calf), LB Malik Harrison (groin), CB Marlon Humphrey (calf), DB Daryl Worley (shoulder/ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Kyle Hamilton (knee), CB Arthur Maulet (hip), LB Del’Shawn Phillips (shoulder), ILB Patrick Queen (shoulder), CB Brandon Stephens (ankle), OLB Kyle Van Noy (calf), G Kevin Zeitler (knee/quad)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), LB Elandon Roberts (pectoral)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Najee Harris (knee), DT Cameron Heyward (groin), G Isaac Seumalo (shoulder), S Trenton Thompson (neck)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Kenny Pickett (ankle)

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