BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are two big story lines coming out of the Ravens’ 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. One, the team suffered a huge injury loss as left tackle Ronnie Stanley is now out for the season with an ankle injury. Two, Lamar Jackson’s struggles against the Steelers are concerning.
Jackson, starting the second game of his career against Pittsburgh, tossed two interceptions and fumbled three times losing two of them. Those four turnovers, added to last year’s three interceptions in Pittsburgh, means the young quarterback has turned the ball over seven times in two games against the Steelers and just 15 times in 27 games against the rest of the league.
Lamar Jackson had a career-high 4 turnovers today, breaking his previous high of 3, in his only other start against the Steelers.
Jackson has 7 turnovers in 2 starts against the Steelers, and 15 in 27 starts against all other teams pic.twitter.com/KhJrMBUNTK
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 1, 2020
That is not ideal for a divisional opponent that the Ravens have to meet twice a season for the rest of Jackson’s, hopefully, long career in Baltimore. Jackson put the blame on himself after the game, as one would expect from the leader of the team.
Lamar Jackson puts the loss to Steelers on him.
"The turnovers are the reason why we lost the game," said Jackson, who had two interceptions and two fumbles.
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) November 1, 2020
For Ravens fans though, the concern is Jackson’s struggles in big games, particularly against a divisional opponent like the Steelers. However, it’s instructive to remember that Jackson, at just 23-years-old and in his third season in the league, is still growing as a quarterback. You need only to look at former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s first three games against Pittsburgh to see how difficult the Steelers’ system can be on a young quarterback.
In 2008, Flacco and the Ravens saw the Steelers three times, twice in the regular season and then again in the playoffs. Here’s a look at Flacco’s stats in those three games against Jackson’s through two.
Flacco: 40/89 (44.9%), 448 yards 1 TD 5 INT 10 sacks 1 lost fumble
Jackson: 32/56 (57.1%), 369 yards 3 TD 5 INT 9 sacks 2 lost fumbles
The numbers there are fairly similar. Flacco in fact lost four of his first five matchups against the Steelers including that first playoff game. After those first five games, the Ravens were 9-6 against the Steelers in Flacco’s career. Eventually, the interceptions began to slow for Flacco as he finished with 25 TD and 12 INTs in his time in Baltimore against the Steelers.
That’s not to say that Jackson will automatically figure it out or that he’s off the hook for his first two performances against the team’s heated rival, something that he would likely tell you. Sunday’s performance is concerning, particularly when considered in the context of the team’s other biggest game this year, against Kansas City, and the playoff loss to the Titans that ended last season.
In those four games, the two Steelers matchups, this season against the Chiefs and playoff loss to the Titans, Jackson is 78/143 (54.5%) for 831 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs, 4 fumbles lost and 17 sacks.
In every other regular season game of his career, Jackson’s numbers sparkle. He’s completed 63.8% of his passes for 5,205 yards 50 TDs, 8 INTs and 6 fumbles lost.
The early career struggles, particularly in these marquee matchups is concerning. But, it’s important to keep in mind that Jackson, in his second full year as a starter and second full year with the same offensive coordinator in Greg Roman, is still learning. The results, in what was expected to be a Super Bowl season, are disappointing. But, there is still time to figure things out.