Ravens to sit Lamar Jackson, injured Mark Ingram and other starters vs. Steelers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson is among several Baltimore Ravens starters, including injured running back Mark Ingram, who will not play in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach John Harbaugh announced Monday.

Ingram, who left Sunday's game in Cleveland early in the fourth quarter, has a mild to moderate calf strain. Harbaugh called it "good news" for Ingram, saying he expects the Pro Bowl running back to be ready when Baltimore plays host to the AFC divisional round playoff game in almost three weeks (Jan. 11 or 12).

The Ravens (13-2) clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed for the first time in team history and secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with Sunday's 31-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns, meaning they have nothing to gain against the rival Steelers (8-7).

"It was pretty straightforward," Harbaugh said. "It's not a hard decision really, if you sit back and think about it. It's a solid decision."

Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback for Baltimore against Pittsburgh, which can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Sunday but also needs the Tennessee Titans to lose to the Houston Texans. The Steelers also can make it with a loss but would need help from several teams in those scenarios.

In addition to Jackson and Ingram, guard Marshal Yanda, safety Earl Thomas and defensive tackle Brandon Williams won't play against Pittsburgh. Because teams can have up to seven inactives, two other starters could also watch from the sidelines. The top candidates for those spots seem to be cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley or tight end Mark Andrews.

In making the decision, Harbaugh said he consulted with Yanda on the flight back from Cleveland and spoke with his coaching staff. The Ravens have won 11 straight games, and some might argue that sitting some players two weeks (the season finale in addition to the first-round bye) will derail their momentum.

It basically comes down to whether you want to risk rust or injury.

"There's a strong case to be made either way. I really recognize the other side of it," Harbaugh said. "I think like it's a fair and valid case and it's real. You just got to balance it out between two good choices really."

This officially ends the regular season for Jackson, the NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner who became the first player in league history to throw for over 3,000 yards and run for over 1,000 yards in a season. He currently leads the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and ranks No. 6 in rushing with 1,206 yards.

Sitting a starting quarterback in the final regular-season game is unusual. In the past five seasons, four teams have clinched the No. 1 seed before Week 17 and only one (the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees) didn't play their starting quarterback. The others used their starting quarterback for less than a half.

After the win in Cleveland, Jackson expressed a desire to play, although he said it was Harbaugh's decision. Harbaugh hasn't spoken to Jackson about not playing but said, "I know he'll be completely on board."

The Ravens were reminded about the injury risk Sunday, when Ingram limped off the field at the start of the fourth quarter. He left the stadium with a protective boot, and he underwent an MRI on Monday.

Ingram's 15 touchdowns this season are tied with Ray Rice (2011) for most in a season by a Ravens running back.

"We'd be looking for him to be ready in two weeks," Harbaugh said. "We'll see how that goes going forward."

Even though the Ravens could be sitting as many as six Pro Bowl players, Harbaugh said the priority is to win Sunday's game. Since it was announced that Jackson wouldn't be starting, Baltimore went from being a 1-point favorite to a 1-point underdog, according to Caesars.

"It's a rivalry game. It's the Steelers," Harbaugh said. "They have everything to play for. We recognize that, and we'll be looking to put our absolute best foot forward and play our best football game with the guys that we'll be playing with."