By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens are all set for their big game against the Steelers at Pittsburgh. This game usually leaves both teams a little banged up when the final whistle is blown. But this Sunday, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore will enter the game a little banged up. This game will focus on the hate between these two teams. But the true test for both teams rest in how they respond to the loss of injured teammates.
Jimmy Smith, CB, (abs): Out
When the Ravens signed free agent CB Chris Johnson to the team earlier this week, you had a feeling something was amidst. Soon after, Baltimore announced that Jimmy Smith went through a sports hernia surgery and will be out for some time. While the Ravens expect him back by the end of the year, he will be unable to play in this pivotal game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This is a good move for the Ravens. They’ll want Smith at his best come playoff time and it has been evident for some time that Smith’s production has declined due to the injury. While he’s out of action, expect Chykie Brown and Corey Graham to get extended looks. Baltimore will need them to be at their best as they’ll face 2 of the fastest receivers in the league in Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders.
Pernell McPhee, DE, (thigh): Doubtful
McPhee was limited in practice on Wednesday after missing practice the day before. He went as far as to say he was feeling “100 percent” after practice. After not playing against Oakland, many hoped it was a sign he would be ready for Pittsburgh. That doesn’t appear to be the case as McPhee missed Friday’s practice and is considered doubtful for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Pernell continues to deal with a nagging thigh injury that has hampered him the past few weeks. If he is unable to go, expect Arthur Jones to start in his place one again.
Jones, who is more of a run stopper, may become a liability on passing downs. But with Roethlisberger out this Sunday, Pittsburgh may decide to run the ball a lot more in this contest. McPhee will be more inclined to wait until next week when the Ravens go up against Phillip Rivers and that dangerous Chargers offense.
Haloti Ngata, DT, (shoulder): Probable
Ngata suited up for the game against Oakland but did not step onto the field. Baltimore dominated the Raiders early on and Harbaugh didn’t feel the need to put the Pro Bowl DT at risk for injury. That decision may have paid dividends as Ngata participated in practice all week and appears ready to play on Sunday against Pittsburgh.
“It was a great week. I was able to practice all week and felt good,” Ngata stated.
His probable chance of play couldn’t have come at a better time. With the loss of Jimmy Smith, Baltimore needs to be able to put pressure on the quarterback and help out the secondary. Ngata has become one of the better pass rushing defensive tackles in the NFL. With him in the lineup, Pittsburgh will have to pick their poison with Suggs in the lineup as well.
Pittsburgh will be without Polamalu, Brown, and Roethlisberger
The loss of Big Ben has been talked about to the point of nausea and rightfully so. Roethlisberger (shoulder) has been the catalyst of the Steelers offense for the entire season. He’s a big part of what their able to do as a unit. With Leftwich stepping in, the former Jaguars quarterback will need all the help he can get. He won’t be able to get any help from Antonio Brown (ankle) as he is out for this game.
Troy Polamalu, another reoccurring face in this heated rivalry, will not be playing in this game either. Polamalu is still dealing with a calf injury that has kept him out most of the season. Clearly Pittsburgh is just as banged up as Baltimore who continues to deal with the loss of both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.