The Baltimore Ravens head into Sunday night's prime time match-up at the Pittsburgh Steelers with breaking news regarding Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben will not be playing due to the shoulder injury he sustained in the Monday Night Football win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Had Roethlisberger played, the Ravens defense knew they'd be running around trying to bring down one of the toughest QBs to tackle in the league. They would not only have to worry about Ben's elusiveness to extend the play, but his ability to stand in the pocket and wait for his receivers to find a seam in the defense.
In addition, the Steelers running game has been effective, apparently regardless of it being their starter, second or third string running backs. That promised a long, tiring day for the defense, especially the guys with their hands in the dirt up front.
With the news that Roethlisberger will not be playing and veteran Byron Leftwich will be the starter, the Ravens know their job has changed, although the goal is the same. Leftwich is not much of a mobile threat and prefers to stand in the pocket and find his receivers. The Ravens pass rushers will have an easier time finding and containing him in comparison to Roethlisberger.
However, there is no question that the Steelers game plan will focus on exploiting the Ravens weak rush defense. That means if the fornt line of Baltimore's defense allows themselves to be pushed back off the line of scrimmage and give up five-plus yards a carry, they won't get the opportunity to force Leftwich to have to win the game against them.
There is no question that if the Ravens can shut down the Steelers run game and put their backup QB in the direct line of fire, then that would be the defense's recipe for success. The offense will still have to do their job against the Steelers defense, which despite the possibility of not having either safeties, Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark, will still pose a huge threat to Joe Flacco and the offense.
Playing on the road at Heinz Field is never easy, especially for field goal kickers. Ravens rookie placekicker Justin Tucker will have to solve the swirling winds and hopefully the game will not come down to his leg. The Ravens have won in their last two trips to Pittsburgh and if it is possible to say, their task just got a bit easier with the recent news.
However, make no bones about it, the Steelers are still a very good and dangerous football team and unless the Ravens play as well as they did in their two meeting last year, this could once again be another war down to the last possession in this rivalry.
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