Reporting Jerry Coleman
The Ravens will go on the road and into a fight like no other this weekend, as they play they Steelers. It is one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. Both of these teams this week will be without some franchise players. That is certainly a difference in this particular game, but it still will be a battle on the field. One of the injuries for the Steelers is to their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He has missed four career games vs. the Ravens, which all resulted in a Baltimore wins. So their preparation is for QB Byron Leftwich. Coach Harbaugh said “The thing about Byron, personally, I’ve always been impressed with is, first of all, is his competitiveness. [He has been] highly successful. At one time, with Jacksonville, he was one of the premier quarterbacks in football. He’s still got those skills. He obviously has a lot of wear left. He hasn’t played a lot lately, so he’s very healthy. [He has a] strong arm – a very smart player. I’m sure they have the whole offense up for him. So, that’s my point. You defend the offense. They’ve got weapons all over the field. They are arguably one of the most talented, if not the most talented, offenses in football. All those guys are going to be out there playing, and Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch is fully capable of running that offense very well.” Baltimore has won 11-consecutive AFC North contest, and lead the division. The last time the Ravens had a divisional loss was at the hands of the Steelers on December 5th, 2010. This is a rivalry that can’t get any better; it’s always a “smash mouth grind” on the field. It might appear like a road game for the purple and black, but they have had success at Heinz Field winning their last two regular season meeting there.
The next few weeks the Ravens will be playing the Steelers twice in three games. Ray Rice is getting ready for it and said, “Me and the weight room will have a lot of great things in there, because I have to start wearing my big boy pants now. It’s going to be a tough stretch for us, but to be 7-2 right now where we are at feels pretty good. If we were on the flipside of it going into this tough stretch, it would be very difficult. But right now to be 7-2 and know that we control our destiny and not any other team is a pretty good feeling. At the end of the day, we all have to go out there and play football. We have to execute at a high level, and it will be something that we will be looking forward to.” It something the Ravens will have to get ready for because even though they have recent success, it was not great to start out. Before the Ravens won those games they had lost 10 of 14 meeting at Heinz Field, which included three postseason games. It has been a battle in the trenches, and where the division winner is that much closer to winning after this game. The Steelers, who have the NFL’s top rated defense, haven’t lost a game at home this season, while the Ravens have struggled mighty on the road this year.
Perhaps NOBODY enjoys facing the Steelers , more than linebacker Terrell Suggs, who declared : “Their fans are just like our fans – they’re emotionally tied to how this team performs. So, there’s going to be a lot of emotion riding in this game, and they’re going to live up to it. I’ve never, ever had a down game – like there was no energy in the stadium – in Heinz Field. I said it last year: This is my Madison Square Garden. If there is one place as a football player you would want to play, it’s definitely being the bad guy in Heinz Field. It’s definitely being the visiting team playing there – there and M&T [Bank Stadium]. I love playing at home, but when I’m talking about opposing stadiums, there’s none better than going to Heinz Field.” The Ravens will look to improve to 8-2, possibly facing a QB who has not been behind center as a starter since 2009, and the Ravens are 4-0 when Roethlisberger doesn’t play.
Follow Jerry Coleman: @sportswcoleman