It’s been less than three weeks since they last played, but the Ravens will have to gameplan for some different pieces for Sunday’s rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The AFC North rival is expected to have some key starters back in the lineup after they missed the first contest, which could greatly impact the final result.
Safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown are both expected back in the starting lineup after being sidelined with injuries.
And starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could also return, as he’s already back on the practice field after suffering rare rib and shoulder injuries three weeks ago.
“They’re going to add some good players, it sounds like,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “That will obviously help. It would help any team.”
Roethlisberger has missed the last two games with what was initially termed a life-threatening injury, and the Steelers have lost both. In those losses to the Ravens and the Browns, the Steelers offense has struggled. They turned the ball over eight times last week in a loss to the Browns.
Byron Leftwich started in Roethlisberger’s place against the Ravens, but he also suffered a rib injury in that game. Charlie Batch started last week against Cleveland, and he will get the nod if Roethlisberger is unable to go on Sunday. The Ravens are getting ready to face either quarterback.
“We don’t know who’s going to be under center, but we’re going to prepare for them both,” outside linebacker
Since Roethlisberger came into the league, the Ravens are 5-0 against the Steelers when he has been hurt or suspended, compared to 9-5 when he’s played.
Roethlisberger was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, and the Steelers are optimistic he can play.
“He is in a different position than he was last time we talked [in Week 11],” Head Coach Mike Tomlin told the Baltimore media on a conference call. “He threw a little bit on Monday. He’s scheduled to throw in some capacity today, and we’ll see where the week will take us.”
Polamalu has been sidelined since Week 5 with a calf issue and Brown has missed three games because of a high ankle sprain.
Both players were full participants in Wednesday’s practice and are reportedly expected to suit up.
Getting the All Pro Polamalu back in the secondary is a boost for the Steelers defense, which already has the top-rated pass defense in the NFL.
Polamalu has played a key role in past victories over the Ravens, specifically the 2008 AFC championship game where his strip sack of quarterback
“Troy is a great player, and he has his little things, he just has a good knack for the game of football,” Flacco said. “He just has a feel for the game. While you try to combat that and account for him, there is always a certain amount that you really can’t account for what he is going to do.”
Brown could help provide a boost to the offense, which is in need of reinforcements. The speedy wideout can challenge opposing defenses in a number of ways, and he is also the starting punt returner.
He’s burned the Ravens in the past, and in his most recent game against Baltimore he racked up 109 receiving yards on five catches. He also had a critical 58-yard reception in a Steelers comeback victory in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs.
“He’s a playmaker on offense and special teams,” Harbaugh said.
Even though the return of the three starters could impact the game, at the end of the day, Suggs said the rivalry is still the same no matter who is out there in uniform.
“They’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers and they’re going to come in, they’re going to be hungry, and they’re going to try to get a win,” Suggs said.